Sunday, November 11, 2007

NCAA Cross Country Season Not Canceled

Apparently, the NCAA cross country season is still going on, and is not canceled, as I had believed, after it suffocated/was crushed under an E. Honda-caliber swan dive by the hype and coverage surrounding the Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon, LLC.com presented by the USATF.

Let's face it - no one in the NCAA can run a 2:09 marathon on a course that downright UNDULATING while turning cartwheels and doing the arms-in-an-X-over-the-crotch "suck it" sign, like Ryan Hall did last weekend. So why should we care about cross country?

WRONG! Regionals were Saturday and they showed that there are plenty of reasons to still care. At least four. Read them after the jump-type-thing.

#1. Josh McDougal CAN run 2:09 over a course that undulating. In fact, he did it last week during his tempo run.

#2. Lopez Lomong. A good runner, AND a Sudanese Lost Boy. It makes for human-interest story unmatched by any that the Trials can boast.

#3. Running. It is very good.

#4. OK, so I ran out of reasons after #2. Honestly, regionals usually serves as something of an anti-climax because, frankly, the system is set up so well -- South Central Region notwithstanding.

One, MAYBE two teams have a right to bitch each year. And this time around, as much as I kind of almost have an inexplicable desire to see Syracuse's cross team succeed, putting Indiana into The Dance and leaving only two entrants from the Northeast means that order has been maintained in the universe. At no point did Syracuse show that they could run with the biggest of the boys (when they beat Providence, Smith was sitting, yes? Villanova is, IMO, a marginal qualifier, and then there was the disaster at Pre-Nats) so it's hard to justify that the Orangemen deserve a spot MORE than the Hoosiers.

One thing that surprised me from the weekend results? Seeing Providence run as well as they did. I think Haji could even be a little further up, too. One thing that did not surprise me in the least?
Colorado not being the 3rd best team in the Mountain Region. Yeah: 5 in the top 14. And that was with NAU and UTEP still running pretty daggone well.

I would take ye Buffaloes as slight favorites over Oregon. It will be interesting to see whose top 2 fare better: Rupp/Kiptoo-Biwott or Vaughn/Pifer. The Buffs guys are not the sexy pick -- I mean, did they EVER place as high at Foot Lockers? -- but Vaughn has shown he has top 5 talent at the college level, and Pifer could be a top 10 guy, easy. Oh yeah, Kiptoo was 98th at Nationals last year. Hitch your wagon to that horse.

As for Michigan... schizophrenic much? 5th at Big 10s... 1st in the Great Lakes? I'm baffled. Gras and Lex Williams ran back in the field as a tandem tight enough to make you wonder if they were told to tempo Big 10s... but do you really throw your conference meet? Unless your "bigger fish to fry" is a National Title, I don't see how you, as a coach, can get away with FIFTH place at conferences when you're sitting down with your AD. And, no, Michigan will not be frying a fish that big in Terre Haute, ripe though the fishing is in Western Indiana. Let's remember: Wisconsin sat Eagon. Actually, the consensus around the Less Than Our Best offices is that there is a 60-40 chance Schumacher will be resting Eagon at Nationals, too.

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