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NCAA Cross Country Preview Part 2 — Women’s Top 10 Teams

NCAA Cross Country Preview Part 2 — Women’s Top 10 Teams

NC State coach Laurie Henes returns 4 of last year’s NCAA winners: Kelsey Chmiel (266), Katelyn Tuohy (277), Sam Bush (265), Heather Holt (269). (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

FROM THIS EARLY vantage point, it would appear we could very well see the NC State squad repeat atop the podium. Yet we’re a long way from November, and in the thousands of miles between here and there, a lot could happen. So take these predictions for entertainment or for inspiration—just don’t take them for gospel.

1. NC State

The buzz about the defending champions is that Laurie Henes’ squad is not just a solid favorite, but possibly one of the best NCAA teams of all time. Up front are two heavy hitters: Kelsey Chmiel and Katelyn Tuohy. Either could win the individual crown. Sam Bush and Heather Holt also ran on the winning bunch last fall. A 15:35.55 performer, Bush is the ACC 5000 champ, and Holt has 16:20.91 chops. The Wolfpack cupboard gets even deeper: Maria Howlett (33:45.29); Nevada Mareno (4:13.49); Brooke Rauber (Pan-Am Junior XC champion in HS); Jenna Schulz (16:22.30); Savannah Shaw (15:33.42); Marlee Starliper (4:37.76 HS mile). Factor in newbies Hannah Gabes — the New Zealand U20 XC champion — and Grace Hartman (4:46.11) and the Wolfpack might be unbeatable.

2. Oklahoma State

Only 13th last year, Dave Smith’s Cowgirls return all of their heavy hitters and bring on an intriguing list of newcomers. Team leader Taylor Roe was 5th last year. Gabby Hentemann was 6th in the track 10,000. Molly Born has run 33:10.77. Sivan Auerbach (4:17.13) and Heidi Demeo (16:34.64) could also contribute. New on campus is last year’s top prep, Natalie Cook, the holder of the 5000 HSR at 15:25.93. Then there’s Billah Jepkirui, a Kenyan who has reportedly run 1500 in 4:11. More of an 800 type, Anne Gine Løvnes comes from Norway with a 4:21.14 PR. Other promising recruits include Cayden Dawson, Payton Hinkle and Aubrey O’Connell.

3. BYU

Runners-up last year, Diljeet Taylor’s squad lost some big names, including champion Whittni Orton and Anna Camp-Bennett (12th). Two-time All-America Aubrey Frentheway leads a solid group of returnees that includes McKenna Lee, Lexy Halladay and Anna Martin. New on the roster, East Tennessee transfer Lindsey Stallworth (38th in ’21), as well as Jenna Hutchins, who ran a then-HSR 15:34.47 and won the ’20 RunningLane race. Other top recruits include Utah state XC champ Addi Bruening, California runner-up Riley Chamberlain, and…

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