NCAA Cross Country Preview — Women’s Top 10 Individuals

Junior Katelyn Tuohy could add a fifth individual NCAA title to her ’22 harrier crown and 3 track wins indoors and out. (MIKE SCOTT)

THE FIRST 11 finishers from ’22 are all back (as well as 17 of the top 20), setting the stage for an exceptionally competitive battle, especially since many are on squads that will also be in the hunt for the team title. Defending champion Katelyn Tuohy is aiming to be the first repeat titlist since Villanova’s Sheila Reid in 2010–11, and she’ll see some of her toughest competition from Florida’s NCAA outdoor 5K champ Parker Valby, not to mention her own NC State teammates.

1. Katelyn Tuohy (NC State)

After a perfectly timed come-from-behind victory last year (after taking 15th in ’21), capping an undefeated harrier season, Tuohy went on to win the NCAA Indoor 3000 and 5000. Her outdoor championships were a letdown (7th in the 1500 followed by a scratch from the 5000), but she rebounded to place 7th in the USA Outdoor 5K, a positive endpoint to a season that saw CRs in the mile (4:24.26i) and 3000 (8:35.20i) and a move to No. 2 collegian all-time in the 5000 (15:03.12). She also made her debut at 10,000, winning the ACC title comfortably in 32:56.75.

2. Parker Valby (Florida)

Valby valiantly led last year’s title race until the final stages, finishing 2nd to Tuohy in just her third race of the season. Indeed, she struggled with a leg injury for most of the year and raced only once indoors (a swift 8:49.71 last December) before producing a dominant win in the outdoor 5000 off about 20 miles a week of running (and lots of cross-training). She has yet to show her cards this fall, but has demonstrated the potential to perform well off minimal racing, and should be in the mix again.

3. Doris Lemngole (Alabama)

New ’Bama distance coach Nick Stenuf may have hit the jackpot with Lemngole, who helps the squad fill in holes from graduation and the transfer portal. The 21-year-old frosh from Kenya was a convincing winner over a strong field at the Piane Invite at Notre Dame in late September. She has previously run 9:35.85 in the steeplechase and 14:40 for 5K on the roads and has the potential to be a major factor on the U.S. collegiate scene.

4. Kelsey Chmiel (NC State)

On just about any other team in the country, Chmiel would be the No. 1 runner. But the tenacious New Yorker has taken a supporting role in Raleigh behind Tuohy — and thrived. Like Tuohy, she closed well over the final kilometer at last year’s championships and finished 3rd overall to help secure the team title. She kept the momentum going during the track season, taking 4th in the indoor 5000 (and 7th in the 3000) then 8th in the outdoor 10K. Her PRs rank among the best in the nation in the 3000 (8:59.25i), 5000 (15:27.36i) and 10,000 (32:45.83).

5. Elise Stearns (Northern Arizona)

Stearns was 4th in Stillwater a year ago, then lowered her 5000 best to 15:33.74 in December. She was soon derailed by injury, however, finishing 11th at the NCAA Indoor and missing the entire outdoor season. But the Montana native showed promising form this September by winning the Virginia Invitational, a 5K race on the course that will host the championship meet this year.

6. Hilda Olemomoi (Alabama)

The Kenyan import had an exceptional transition to Division I after a year at the junior college level. In her first season in Tuscaloosa last fall she placed 6th in XC, then 2nd in the indoor 5000 and 5th in the outdoor 10,000. She also notched flashy PRs in the 3000 (8:45.50i), 5000 (15:17.97i) and 10,000 (32:05.83).

7. Olivia Markezich (Notre Dame)

Now a grad student, Markezich placed 8th last fall (and 11th in ’21), leading Notre Dame to 7th in the team competition. She went on to finish 2nd in the NCAA Indoor 3000 and won the steeple title outdoors before finishing 4th at the USATF Champs in a PR 9:17.93 (No. 8 all-time among Americans). She also sports impressive PRs in the flat 3000 (8:50.48) as well as the 5000 (15:33.62).

8. Natalie Cook (Colorado)

Cook was 7th for Oklahoma State a year ago, and following an injury-plagued track season has transferred to Colorado. After setting an AJR in the 5000 as a prep senior (and notching list-leading times in the 3000 and 2M), she clocked 15:24.26 indoors last December, but barely raced after that while dealing with injuries.

9. Kaylee Mitchell (Oregon State)

After an 18th-place finish last time around, Mitchell qualified for the NCAA Indoor in the mile and 3000, then finished 7th in the steeple at NCAAs (down a spot from ’21) and 6th at the USATF Outdoor in a PR 9:24.01. She has also run 4:32.95 for the mile, 8:55.10 for 3000 and 15:37.46 for the 5000. She’s already picked up where she left off in the spring, opening the ’23 XC season with a convincing win at Oregon’s Dellinger Invite.

10. Amaris Tyynismaa (NC State)

Ninth last year for Alabama (and 3rd at the ’21 spring championship meet), Tyynismaa transferred to NC State after the new year and continued to improve, clocking 15:30.37 for 5000, winning the ACC title and then placing 4th at the outdoor NCAA. She has also run sub-4:10 in the 1500 (4:09.48) and sub-9:00 in the 3K (8:55.52).

Others To Watch:

Margot Appleton (Virginia), Alyson Churchill (Florida State), Greta Karinauskaitė (Cal Baptist), Judy Kosgei (South Carolina), Amina Maatoug (Duke), Ceili McCabe (West Virginia), Maia Ramsden (Harvard), Taylor Roe (Oklahoma State), Izzy Thornton-Bott (Oregon). ◻︎