NC STATE IS SEEKING the first NCAA Cross Country 3-peat since Stanford (2005–07) and their top-to-bottom depth makes them a strong favorite to succeed. With Katelyn Tuohy leading the way, there should be several members of the Wolfpack coming through the chutes early in Charlottesville on November 18. New Mexico and Alabama gave NC State a scare last year, but many of the top returners from those programs have moved to other schools. Among the beneficiaries from those transfers are Northern Arizona and Florida.
1. NC State
After winning their second-straight team title last year, NC State coach Laurie Henes noted that “you don’t have to have perfection to pull it off. And we didn’t necessarily have that today.” And while that victory was closer-than-expected over Alabama, it’s clear there aren’t many flaws to speak of in Raleigh. The Wolfpack’s emerging dynasty is likely to grow at Virginia, with defending individual champion Katelyn Tuohy expected to lead the way. In fact, 5 of 7 from last year’s winners are returning, including Kelsey Chmiel (3rd) and Samantha Bush (15th). As if that wasn’t enough, the program now also includes (since January) Amaris Tyynismaa, 9th last fall for Alabama.
2. Northern Arizona
The Lumberjacks placed 6th in ’22, and return the core of that squad, led by 4th-placer Elise Stearns and Annika Reiss (47th), who later finished 8th in the NCAA Indoor mile. Stearns struggled with injury outdoors, but has returned to form this fall. Additionally, Mike Smith enhanced his roster with transfers Gracelyn Larkin (26th last year for New Mexico) and Ruby Smee (58th, from USF). A dominant September win over several top teams at the Virginia Invitational on the NCAA course (plus an individual title for Stearns) showed this group has major upside.
3. Notre Dame
After a 5th-place finish in ’21 and 7th last year, the Fighting Irish will once again be in the mix. Olivia Markezich led the way a year go with a 9th-place showing, 7 months before claiming the NCAA steeple title. She’s joined this year by twin sister Andrea, a transfer from Washington who’s run 32:50.16 for 10,000. Siona Chisholm was 81st in Stillwater, placed 10th in the outdoor 5000 and has a 15:37.81 PR. She opened her season with a win at the National Catholic invite in…