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 November 15, 2021, Issue 155



The start of Friday's NCAA Northeast Regional
 

The field is set for Saturday’s NCAA Cross Country Championships

On Friday, I attended the NCAA Division I Northeast Region Cross Country Championships, because it was happening not far from me, at Boston’s Franklin Park. I have been racing, coaching, photographing, and spectating at meets at Franklin Park for multiple decades now, but it had been a while since I’d been back. It was fun to witness the specific kind of chaos that comes with a championship cross country meets again, and to feel like a newbie because I couldn’t remember where the runners would appear on the course next. And it was a gross rainy and windy day, perfect cross country weather.

The Northeast Regional was one of nine regional races held Friday to determine the 31 teams and 38 individuals that will compete at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The race will be held Saturday at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. For the top teams, the goal was to exert as little energy as possible while doing what it takes to move on, while for others, the race was an all-out effort. There were no major surprises in the team competition as all the teams ranked in the top 26 advanced, as did No. 28 West Virginia and unranked Rice, Harvard, Villanova, and Butler.
 

It would be a shock if the Northeast produced any podium teams on Saturday, but given who has come through this meet in the past, it’s likely that there were some stars of the future in the field. None of the regional meets were held in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the last time the Northeast Regional was held, there was controversy. The race, held in Buffalo, New York, was moved to the roads at the last minute, due to record snowfall. Some teams were able to acquire Nike Vaporfly shoes to race in and had great success in them. This year, super shoes weren’t going to help anyone. Though the weather wasn’t so bad during the women’s race, it rained hard both before and after, leaving the course slippery, which led to some big wipeouts.

I was impressed by race winner Amanda Vestri of Syracuse, who looked so relaxed throughout. The Harvard women put together a strong performance to win 71–81 over Syracuse and repeat as regional champions. 



Amanda Vestri


The Mountain Region Championships featured three of the top four teams, but they weren’t showing all their cards yet, as the University of Colorado held out Rachel McArthur and Hannah Miniutti and BYU held out Whittni Orton Morgan, Lexy Halladay, and McKenna Lee Hansen. I was impressed with 18-year-old Tierney Wolfgram’s runner-up finish in the Mountain region for Nevada, which qualified her for nationals as an individual. Last year at this time, she had just run an American junior record of 2:31:49 in the marathon. Wolfgram graduated from high school a year early and is in her second year of college, but she is considered a freshman eligibility-wise. (Also, check out the scenery from the race.)

I was also impressed with Julia Heymach’s narrow win in the West Region. The Stanford graduate student finished sixth in the 1500m in 4:04.84 in June at the Olympic Trials. She certainly could have turned pro if she wanted to, but she opted to return to Stanford instead. Heymach finished only 25th at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships two weeks earlier, not helped by the fact that the race was held at altitude. It will be interesting to see what she can do against the country’s best at sea level on Saturday.

Another athlete who could have turned pro but opted to return for the collegiate season was Virginia’s Michaela Meyer, who finished fourth in the 800m (1:58.55) at the Olympic Trials. Meyer placed 49th in the Southeast Region on Friday to close out her collegiate career.

It’s not clear what options athletes like Heymach and Meyer would have had had they chosen to turn pro over the summer, but clearly both saw value in returning to the NCAA. BYU men’s coach Ed Eyestone recently told the Deseret News that Conner Mantz returned to the NCAA this fall because, “The timing was such that it was difficult to get a shoe contract after the Olympics. The market was saturated. It’s simple supply and demand. He could’ve signed but wouldn’t have maximized his earning potential.”



Mercy Chelangat (Photo courtesy of Alabama Athletics)
 

The athlete to beat on Saturday is Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat, the reigning NCAA cross country champion. Chelangat has raced only three times this season, but she is unbeaten. She won the South Regional comfortably on Friday. There are so many other strong runners in the NCAA right now that I wouldn’t want to attempt to list everyone who has a shot at the individual win, but West Virginia’s Ceili McCabe has had an excellent season and also comes in undefeated.

Team-wise, it’s going to be a great battle. NC State, who dominated the Southeast Regional, is currently ranked first, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see New Mexico, Colorado, or the defending champions from BYU take the win. (All regional results)

How to watch: The NCAA Cross Country Championships will air live on ESPNU on Saturday, November 20, beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET. The women’s race goes off at 10:20 and the men’s race is at 11:10. The races will be shown without commercial interruption. While the NCAA is saying the race is available via the ESPN app, when they said that in March, it meant that you needed to have ESPNU access to watch via the app. Having an ESPN+ subscription was not sufficient, so I suspect that will be the case this time as well. I’ve exhausted most of the free trial options out there, but this time, I think I might give Vidgo, a relatively new service, a try.


 

Thanks to Janji for sponsoring Fast Women this month

Janji makes running essentials that support life essentials—2% of sales give back to support clean water projects around the globe. Our current Fall/Winter collection is inspired by the American Southwest with designs from Christian Gering, an artist and mountain runner from San Felipe Pueblo in New Mexico. The collection supports the NGO Dig Deep, and their efforts to increase access to running water throughout Navajo Nation.

Grab 20% off the new season with code FASTWOMEN at www.Janji.com.


 

The Bowerman Track Club headlines Wednesday’s Michigan Pro Ekiden

Last year, the Bowerman Track Club had to pull out of the inaugural Michigan Pro Ekiden at the last minute due to Covid contact tracing, but this year, the team is honoring their commitment to compete in the event. The event will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Stony Creek Metro Park in Washington Township, Michigan, and it will be streamed live on RunnerSpace.com for subscribers. 

The race is 26.2 miles, and alternates women’s and men’s legs in the following order: 6K women, 5K men, 5K women, 6K men, 10K women, 10K men. There should be a number of strong teams in the race, but no team has more Olympians than the Bowerman Track Club squad, which includes Courtney Frerichs and Elise Cranny. The first three teams will earn prize money, and the two fastest runners on each leg will also earn money.

Josette Norris is also scheduled to return to racing this week as she headlines the field for Saturday’s Sugar Run 5K in Memphis, Tennessee. Julie-Anne Staehli and Kim Conley are also in the field, and Emma Coburn is scheduled to serve as the honorary starter for the mass race. The women’s race begins at 10:15 a.m. ET and will be streamed live on the Sugar Run Facebook page.
 

Additional Results

  • Keira D’Amato won the 8K that accompanies the Richmond Marathon in an impressive 24:47. She wasn’t that far off Deena Kastor’s U.S. 8K record of 24:36, set in 2005. Not bad given that D’Amato ran the Chicago Marathon five weeks ago. Caroline Hentzen won the marathon in 2:42:23, and Annmarie Tuxbury won the half marathon in 1:14:05. (Results)

  • Sara Vaughn won the Horsetooth Half Marathon, in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1:15:16.

  • Kenya’s Nelly Jepchumba won the Madrid Half Marathon in a course record 1:07:47.

  • The NCAA Division II and Division III Cross Country Championships will also take place on Saturday. The links have information about who is running and when the races take place. Both will be streamed live at ncaa.com.

  • Faith Nyathi of El Paso Community College won the NJCAA DI cross country title, running 17:08.8 for 5K. The College of Southern Idaho, led by Audrey Camp, younger sister of NCAA DI champion Anna Camp-Bennett and coached by Olympian Lindsey Anderson, won the team title. North Iowa Area CC’s Sarah Bertry won the DII title in 18:21.1 and Lansing CC won the team title. Julia Danko of Oxford College won the DIII title in 19:55 and led her team to victory. (DI and DII results | DIII results)

  • Stefanie Flippin won the Tunnel Hill 100 in 14:04:16 (8:27/mile).



New York City Marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir, and the event's other winners, visited the Empire State Building last Monday. (Photo courtesy of NYRR)
 

Other News and Links

  • This is a good article from Lori Ewing about Lanni Marchant’s 11th place finish (2:32:54) at last weekend’s New York City Marathon. The Canadian citizen raced in Wonder Women shorts she bought on Etsy and ran for Release Recovery, an organization that helps people overcome addiction. The cause spoke to her because she lost her father and a close friend to drug overdoses. Marchant has also dealt with a series of injury and health setbacks in recent years that made her success in New York all the more satisfying. Marchant spoke more about all of it in an Instagram live last week.

  • Karelle Edwards-Perry wrote about the harassment, verbal and emotional abuse, bullying, and sexual assault she experienced while pursuing her goals in the sport. Her message: “To all the athletes out there, you do not need to be abused to be the best. To coaches, therapists, and everyone else involved in sports, stop turning a blind eye. Put your egos and money aside and start protecting young athletes. The system needs to change and it starts with each of us fully recognizing the pervasive problems of abuse.”

  • Reading this Runner’s World Q&A with Chelsea Clinton about her New York City Marathon experience requires a subscription, but if you can access it, I enjoyed it. There are some aspects of training for a marathon that are different if you’re Chelsea Clinton, but there are also many ways in which it’s just the same for Clinton as it is for the rest of us. She injured herself falling off a treadmill six weeks out from the marathon, but she recovered enough to meet her sub-4:00 goal, running 3:59:09 in her first marathon. I appreciated her story about calling her mother at mile 11, and she’s looking for a coach and/or friend to help her train for her next marathon.

  • Leah Falland announced that she is starting a YouTube channel.

  • Kori Carter wrote about being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

  • Grete Waitz’s story is relatively well known, but this is a nice piece from World Athletics about Waitz, with some fun illustrations.

  • The course for next summer’s World Championships marathon in Eugene, Oregon, was revealed last week. The three-loop course will start and finish in front of the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium, not Hayward Field, and it will include parts of the course used for the 1972 and 1976 U.S. Olympic Trials. (Neither of which included women, because the first women’s Olympic marathon wasn’t until 1984.)

  • World Athletics announced a new Safeguarding policy last week, to protect athletes from abuse, harassment and exploitation. It’s too soon to say what kind of difference it will make for athletes, but it seems like a step in the right direction.

  • The Running Industry Diversity Coalition is looking for its first executive director.

Clarification from last week’s newsletter: While Annie Frisbie does not have a shoe company paying her to run, which makes her unsponsored by my definition, she is not unsupported. Minnesota Distance Elite provides significant support to its athletes in the form of coaching, athlete stipends, and covering race-related travel expenses. The team also has in-kind sponsors that provide some health care services, training facilities, shoes, and apparel, among other things.

 

Podcast Highlights

  • Molly Seidel was on the Citius Mag podcast last week and it’s one of those episodes you don’t want to miss. She talked about struggling with some of the attention that has come with her success, including having runners approach her for photos immediately before the New York City Marathon. Des Linden came to her rescue, body blocked one runner, and reminded Seidel she could say no. Seidel talked more about fracturing her ribs (she’s still not saying how it happened) and falling a week later while training and getting whiplash. She discussed getting criticized for high-fiving her sister during the race, how Jenny Simpson helped her out when she was a young runner, and said if she ends up in a fast race, she’s not opposed to going after the American record in the marathon, but she’s not going to line up for a race specifically with the record in mind. And if you really just aren’t a podcast person, Chris Chavez has pulled some highlights from the conversation here.

  • Seidel also talked to Carrie Tollefson. The conversation was recorded before the race but still included some good tidbits. Seidel told Tollefson, “The first person who said I was going to win an Olympic medal was [Aliphine Tuliamuk]... She poured everything into helping me and hyping me up.” 

  • Emma Bates was on the Ali on the Run Show, where she talked about her runner-up finish at the Chicago Marathon. She also discussed leaving Boise after getting divorced, partially because her husband had been her coach, and transitioning to Team Boss. It was notable that Bates said that after getting Covid early on in the pandemic, before there were enough tests to go around, it was four or five months before she felt like herself again, breathing-wise.

  • Emily Durgin talked about changing sponsors and her recent racing on I’ll Have Another. Durgin decided to shut down her fall road racing after getting Covid and having a small injury pop up, but it sounds like she’ll be back to racing in January.

  • On For the Long Run, Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Andrea Toppin talked about learning the hard way that when she takes care of herself mentally, physically, and nutritionally she runs well. She said of her college experience, “My lack of self love was slowing me down, really, and hurting me physically and mentally.”

  • On the Rambling Runner podcast, Caitlin Keen talked about struggling with running during the height of the pandemic and working her way back to her recent Flying Pig Marathon win.

  • Steph Bruce and Kellyn Taylor were on the 2 Black Runners podcast and Makena Morley was on A to Z Running.

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This was a quieter week of racing and running news as the flurry of World Marathon Majors is over, but for some athletes, their seasons are just getting started. In addition to everything mentioned above (and a slew of Thanksgiving races), the USATF Half Marathon Championships are coming up on December 5, and I’m looking forward to seeing how many people go for fast times at the California International Marathon the same day. And it’s almost indoor track season, too.

Thanks so much to Janji for supporting Fast Women this month. Use the code FASTWOMEN at checkout to get 20% off the new season. And thanks to all of you who help keep this newsletter going with your support via Patreon. Have a great week!

Alison

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