Yesterday I previewed the Toledo Inter-Regional Bubble Buster in terms of teams—looking at rankings, places earned at last year’s NCAA and conference championship meets, and so forth. Today I’m going to take a look at the runners as individuals.
A few things to note: this is the first major competitive effort of the season for pretty much all of the top runners, and their coaches are looking at the big picture and realizing that they need to be at their best some two months from now. Also, the meet is all about teams and earning points for at-large bids to the NCAA Championships, and so some runners may be putting the needs of the team ahead of their own.
The top two entries are among the very best in the entire nation.
Juli Accurso, Ohio University
36th at the 2011 NCAA Championships
Track PRs: 15:58.69 (5k), 9:21.89 (3k)
Last year was a breakout year for Accurso, claiming All-American status in cross country and following it up with a Mid-American Conference indoor record in the 5000 meters and a 12th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships in that same event. The French major redshirted the outdoor season in order to study abroad in France. She kicked off the cross country season two weeks ago with an easy win at Penn State’s Harry Grove Spiked Shoe Invitational.
Waverly Neer, Columbia
40th at the 2011 NCAA Championships
Track PRs: 16:35.15 (5k), 9:08.72 (3k)
Neer was the nation’s top freshman at last year’s NCAA Championships and followed it up with a strong indoor season, taking 15th at the NCAA Championships 3000 meters. After that much high-level competition, she redshirted the outdoor season. This will be her first race since April.
Mareike Schrulle and Kayla Beattie, Iowa
Senior and Sophomore
Track PRs: 16:13.73/17:01.67 (5k)
Schrulle was good but not great during last fall’s cross country season, taking 39th at the Big Ten Championships and 38th at the Midwest regional. She ran some very good times during track season, including a 16:13 at the Stanford Invitational. Beattie came fairly close to qualifying to last year’s NCAA Championships, with a 17th-place finish at the Midwest regional, but then redshirted the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
Kaylin Belair and Megan Vogelsong, Toledo
Senior and junior
95th and 144th at the 2011 NCAA Championships
Track PRs: 17:01.67/16:55.06 (5k), 34:15.00 (10k, Vogelsong)
Since Emma Kertesz and Ari Fisher have used up eligibility, these are the two best returning runners for the Rockets. During track season, they were part of the deep distance corps that very nearly won Toledo its first-ever MAC Championship.
Others to watch
Hannah Sutchar, Charlotte
Brigid Byrne and Annie-Norah Beveridge, Navy
Megan Ranegar, Iowa
Shaylyne Tuite, Syracuse
Clare Buck, Columbia
Merel van Steenbergen, Portland
Terefe Ejigu, Eastern Michigan
2nd at 2011 MAC Championships, 27th at 2011 Great Lakes regional
Track PRs: 14:00.00 (5k), 30:01.17 (10k)
Ejigu was considered a threat to qualify to last year’s NCAA Championships as an individual but had a poor race at regionals. During outdoor track season, though, he qualified to the NCAAs in the 5k. Ejigu has a fascinating life story with significant hardship; his family fled violence in Ethiopia and ended up in New Zealand, where Terefe took up running.
Joe Whelan, Syracuse
108th at the 2011 NCAA Championships
Track PRs: 8:53.53 (steeplechase)
Whelan is the top returning runner from last year’s team, which took 15th at the NCAA Championships. During track season he concentrated on shorter events, running just five places shy of qualifying to the NCAA Championships in the steeplechase.
Robert Molke, Syracuse
Track PRs: 14:13.03 (5k), 29:35.72 (10k)
Molke did not run on the Syracuse teams last year at either the regional or NCAA Championships, but his best track times last spring were good, including a sub-30:00 run at Princeton’s Sam Howell Invitational and a runner-up finish at the Big East Championships.
Jose Madera, San Francisco
28th at the 2011 West regional
Track PRs: 14:42.47 (5k), 30:57.16 (10k)
Madera was the team’s leader in three of his five races last fall, and 28th at the deep West regional was no small feat. His track times are not particularly impressive but that’s due in large part to San Francisco’s light track schedule; he ran only three track races in all of last year.