BIG EAST teams have been at the forefront of the national men’s and women’s cross country scene all season and the conference figures to have a significant presence at the NCAA Division I Championships Monday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.
The BIG EAST will have five men’s teams and five women’s teams among the 31 squads in each race that will battle for the respective championships. Three teams on each side qualified automatically by either winning or taking second place at their respective regionals, while two men’s teams and two women’s teams were chosen as at-large selections.
The BIG EAST has had particular success in the women’s race, winning 10 NCAA titles since 1989. Villanova has accounted for nine of those trophies, including back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Ranked No. 2 in this week’s USTFCCCA poll, the Wildcats are among the favorites to take home their third straight NCAA title. Bolstered by the return of Sheila Reid – the 2010 NCAA individual champion and a three-time BIG EAST and Mid-Atlantic Regional medalist – Villanova brings a squad that is as deep, talented and experienced as any in the nation. The Wildcats placed four runners in the top 16 at the NCAA regional meet this year, with senior Bogdana Mimic – the BIG EAST runner-up – and sophomores Nicky Akande and Emily Lipari turning in all-region performances.
Georgetown tied Villanova for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region title, however, positioning the Hoyas for a legitimate shot at the national championship. Emily Infeld – a seven-time all-American in cross country and track & field – was the runner-up to Reid at the NCAA regional meet and is the leader of a group of five runners that placed in the top 20 in the region. Emily Jones turned in a top-10 finish, while Claire Richardson, Kristen Kasper and Katrinia Coogan provide the Hoyas with consistent depth through the top five. Georgetown is ranked No. 4 nationally.
Syracuse is ranked No. 12 nationally this week, falling three spots in the rankings despite scoring an impressive first-place finish at the NCAA Northeast Region meet. The Orange are paced by Lauren Penney, who was the runner-up at the Northeast regional and 10th at the BIG EAST Championship, and Sarah Pagano, who took ninth at the regional.
West Virginia has moved into the national top 10, standing at No. 9 in this week’s coaches poll following a third-place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. The Mountaineers trailed only Villanova and Georgetown at the regional, resulting in an at-large selection to the national meet. West Virginia, which finished sixth at last year’s NCAA Championships and has been in the top 10 in three of the last four years, has depth at the top with Kate Harrison (fifth at the NCAA regional) and Kaitlyn Gillespie (seventh) leading the way.
Notre Dame was selected as an at-large qualifier on the heels of a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Great Lakes regional. The Irish will make their 10th appearance at the national meet, which includes four straight top-10 finishes between 2002 and 2005. Jessica Rydberg and Gabby Gonzales took 10th and 13th, respectively, at the Great Lakes regional for the Irish, who are ranked No. 29 in this week’s poll.
On the men’s side, the BIG EAST has five teams ranked among the top 26 nationally, and all five will compete for the national title in Terre Haute.
Syracuse enters the national championship meet ranked No. 12 nationally after the Orange claimed their third straight NCAA Northeast Region title. Pau Dupont was the fourth-place finisher in the individual standings, leading a group of three Syracuse runners among the top 10 in the regional. Dupont, Tito Medrano and Joseph Whelan provide the top-level scoring for the Orange.
Georgetown’s men won the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region title for the seventh time in eight years to earn the automatic entry to the national meet. The Hoyas have remarkable consistency at the top of their lineup with Alex Lundy, Mark Denin, Andrew Springer and T.C. Lumbar separated by just six seconds at the regional meet. That depth should make the 15th-ranked Hoyas a legitimate contender among the national contingent.
Villanova – the 2011 BIG EAST champion – also earned an automatic ticket to the NCAA Championships after the 16th-ranked Wildcats finished second to Georgetown at the Mid-Atlantic regional. All five Villanova scorers earned all-region status at the Mid-Atlantic meet, helping the Wildcats finish ahead of Princeton, which came in as the top-ranked team in the region. Ryan Sheridan was the runner-up, while Matthew Gibney took fifth for Villanova.
Notre Dame was chosen as an at-large qualifier for the NCAA Championship, marking the 47th appearance in the national meet for the Irish. Notre Dame, ranked No. 25 nationally, helped its cause by taking fourth at the NCAA Great Lakes regional behind three top-20 individual finishers. Jordan Carlson was the top Irish finisher at the regional, while Martin Grady was the top man at the BIG EAST Championship. The Irish have registered 33 top-10 finishes at the national meet and won the NCAA title in 1957.
Providence also earned at-large qualification as the Friars will compete in the national meet for the 16th time in the last 17 years. The Friars – ranked No. 26 nationally – took fourth at the NCAA Northeast regional behind a strong effort from David McCarthy, who was second in a 240-man field. Dominic Channon also earned a top-10 finish for the Friars.
In addition to the teams that were selected to the championship, Cincinnati’s Eric Finan – the BIG EAST individual champion – will compete in the national title race. Finan took second at the NCAA Great Lakes regional and ran third on the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet on the LaVern Gibson Course.
The men’s race will begin at approximately 12:08 p.m. ET, followed by the women’s race at approximately 12:58 p.m. A live webcast of the championships will be broadcast from noon to 1:30 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 21, on NCAA.com. In addition, highlights from the championships will be included as part of the CBS NCAA Fall Seasonal Show scheduled to air on Sunday, Dec. 25, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. ET on CBS HD.