NXN Team Preview: Will the favorites survive or will a challenger rise to the top?

Portland, OR - Nike Cross Nationals, entering it's tenth iteration, is the highlight of the year for Cross Country teams around the country.  For many, it has overtaken the focus of many as the end goal for a season body of work.  Bringing about 22 of the best teams in the nation, 2013 seems to be one of the most even matched years in the events history.  With much work being done to prevent the course from returning to muddy mess it was in 2012, conditions look dry for the week leading up to the competition.

Predicting team results for a meet like NXN can prove troublesome.  To most, it has been demonstrated in the past that how you have run all season does not neccesarily represent how you will run at Portland Meadows.  So, in effect, predictions are more hunchs than an educated guess.  Essentially, anything can happen, and anything usually does.  Top seeded teams lose a member in a fall, teams don't acclimate to the different weather, the main goal was to reach NXN without an expectation to win it.  All these factors and more make the race troublesome to predict.  So, in effect, we can give you the numbers, give you our opinions, and let you make your best educated guess.  It probably is no better than ours, when there are so many variables to performance.

All Speed Rating numbers are taken from TullyRunners' own projections.  Bill Meylan does a good job with these year in and year out, and naturally our opinions overlap quite a bit.  He too explains that an unfamiliar course, with unfamiliar competition, can produce unfamiliar results for most teams.  But we've tried to wade through the muddied waters if you will, and give you the top teams to look out for.


Boys Teams

It seems to be a general concensus that the boys competition is a three-horse race.  CBA has been dominant all season, breaking course team average records every time they step out for competition.  However, Fayetteville-Manlius broke one of CBA's records in winning their regional, and destroying the field.  Splitting the Northeast pair is Gig Harbor, who have been running very well all season.  Lets take a quick look at the top three, and then three more who shouldn't be counted out.

CBA - Past performance plays into the outcome of Nationals moreso than most races.  Last year, CBA was arguably on the same hot streak they are on now, with many claiming that a National Title was inevitable.   They entered the meet as the odds-on favorites, yet settled for fourth place in the mud.  In 2013, much is similar.  They have been running outstanding performances all season, highlighted with a State Title won by a "JV" team.  Regionals again did not go as planned, with #1 Mike McClemmens taking a fall mid-way through the race, and the decision to rest one of their top 5, gave the impression they were not as dominant in years past.  However, CBA has proven they have depth that many teams can't duplicate, and they also have something else many other teams don't.  They have won the title before, in 2011, and know how to get the job done.  They are a serious threat for the podium with reports of the course being dryer than most years.

Gig Harbor - The Washington State has two of the top teams in the nation, and the competition has only pushed Gig Harbor to succeed.  Running with a very solid top three, their lead pack could prove fruitful in the pursuit of the podium.  Likewise, State-mates North Spokane (North Central) look to be just as dangerous.  Their 1-2 are ranked in the top 5 for team individuals, and those kind of low numbers can be gamechangers in such a deep field of competitors.

Fayetteville-Manlius - Much like their female counterparts, the boys of Fay-Man peaked at just the right time.  While other NY teams were once within striking distance, FM has separated from the pack with ambitions to lead it.  Their performance at Bowdoin Park broke the team average record by nearly ten seconds, and the top 3 athletes look to make it into the top 15 slots for team scorers.  They are also arguably the best underclassmen team, having only one senior in their top 7.  Could this be the first year ever we see a team sweep both competitions?

Arcadia - Last years National Champions were the first ever to take repeat titles, and they look to have stayed true to form in 2013.  Their wasn't much fanfare for Arcadia entering NXN last year, and a similar situation exists in 2013.  It worked out well last time, so I doubt they are complaining.  Likewise, American Fork took home second in 2013, and more than have the ability to place higher this year.  It truly is anyone's game.


        Team Scores Based on                                  Team Scores Based on
        NXN Regional Speed Ratings                           State Meet (or CA Sectional) Speed Ratings

1   Fayetteville-Manlius   NY    123    (New York  )          1   Christian Brothers     NJ    128
2   Arcadia                CA    184    (California)          2   Gig Harbor             WA    128
3   Gig Harbor             WA    200    (Northwest )          3   Fayetteville-Manlius   NY    166
4   Brentwood HS           TN    202    (Southeast )          4   North Central          WA    173
5   Christian Brothers     NJ    202    (Northeast )          5   Arcadia                CA    219
6   Northport              NY    215    (New York  )          6   American Fork          UT    228
7   Liverpool              NY    254    (New York  )          7   Liverpool              NY    235
8   St. Xavier             OH    258    (Midwest   )          8   St. Xavier             OH    247
9   Carmel                 IN    262    (Midwest   )          9   Northport              NY    270
10  Madera South           CA    268    (California)          10  Carmel                 IN    281
11  American Fork          UT    279    (Southwest )          11  Dana Hills             CA    281
12  Severna Park           MD    286    (Southeast )          12  Central Catholic       OR    285
13  Southlake Carroll      TX    287    (South     )          13  W Chester Henderson    PA    291
14  W Chester Henderson    PA    289    (Northeast )          14  Madera South           CA    310
15  North Central          WA    301    (Northwest )          15  Hinsdale Central       IL    312
16  Dana Hills             CA    331    (California)          16  Wayzata                MN    321
17  Wayzata                MN    366    (Heartland )          17  Brentwood HS           TN    339
18  Central Catholic       OR    373    (Northwest )          18  Edina                  MN    364
19  Edina                  MN    373    (Heartland )          19  Severna Park           MD    401
20  Davis                  UT    385    (Southwest )          20  Southlake Carroll      TX    405
21  Hinsdale Central       IL    396    (Midwest   )          21  Davis                  UT    462
22  Lewisville Hebron      TX    462    (South     )          22  Lewisville Hebron      TX    469

Girls Teams

Just like the boys, there are favorites, but no decisive leaders.  For some reason, girls teams have been able to run closer to that which they have been running all season.  You can attribute that to the pressure of nationals, how girls run in the mud vs boys, or a whole number of factors, but predictions usually have a decent bearing.  With that said, there are still some outliers, and our five teams to watch are below.

Fayetteville-Manlius - It is hard to overlook past precedent, and if anyone has set one, it has to be FM.  Despite two early season losses, the Hornets look primed and ready to take on the country yet again.  Manlius brings back enough talent with NXN experience, that the course is all too familiar.  Running true to form, they scored the lowest point total of any of the regionals, and have dominated races from the early points in the race.  Running with a pack of four girls strong for a majority of the race, with another two close behind, regionals looked as if it would be another year atop the podium.  Been there, done that comes into play, and makes them the favorite.

Great Oak - The girls of Great Oak have had a knockout season, running course records, taking down competition in leaps and bounds.  On paper, and on solid ground, they look to be almost even with Fay-Man, running stellar performances at their state meet and CIF Southern Section Finals.  But there is precedent for California teams at NXN to falter.  Last year, Great Oak was seeded fifth coming in to the race, but finished 17th once the mud had settled .  In 2013, they will be much better suited coming into a race that has promised much more solid ground, returning many key players who took to the mudhole last year..  Could they break the California curse?  We'll find out Saturday.

Carmel - Consider it a perfect balance, as Carmel has two things you look for in a successfull XC Team.  They have the low number scorer in Kelcy Welch, and they have a strong pack of four runners to consolidate the numbers.  This is a recipe for success at NXN, when so many teams can get seperated in the crowd.

Davis/Fort Collins - Both teams are "even-up" coming into the race.  They both similarly had great season, have competed well at Nationals in the past, and only had .01 second seperating eachother at their Regional Meet.

**Unionville - It is hard to mention Fayetteville-Manlius as national contenders, and not mention the team that beat them twice throughout the regular season.  Much like Wayzata, who posted a strong early race at Roy Griak before losing top member Anna French to sickness, Unionville was on the road to success before a case of mono took a few weeks of training away from Emily Fisher.  Luckily, Fisher has been on the mend, and if she returns as their #2 girl at Nationals, expect them to be a real threat to be on the podium.


      Team Scores Based on                                  Team Scores Based on
     NXN Regional Speed Ratings                              State Meet (or CA Sectional) Speed Ratings

 1   Fayetteville-Manlius  NY      119    (New York  )        1   Great Oak             CA      105
 2   Great Oak             CA      123    (California)        2   Fayetteville-Manlius  NY      116
 3   Davis                 UT      212    (Southwest )        3   Unionville            PA      183
 4   Unionville            PA      212    (Northeast )        4   Pennsbury             PA      203
 5   Fort Collins          CO      217    (Southwest )        5   Wayzata               MN      204
 6   Davis Senior          CA      249    (California)        6   Davis                 UT      211
 7   Wayzata               MN      254    (Heartland )        7   Monarch               CO      225
 8   Monarch               CO      265    (Southwest )        8   Bozeman               MT      242
 9   Simi Valley           CA      272    (California)        9   Naperville North      IL      248
 10  Carmel                IN      287    (Midwest   )        10  Carmel                IN      256
 11  Bozeman               MT      289    (Northwest )        11  Simi Valley           CA      269
 12  Pennsbury             PA      295    (Northeast )        12  Coe-Brown             NH      283
 13  Assumption            KY      315    (Southeast )        13  Saratoga              NY      311
 14  New Braunfels         TX      323    (South     )        14  Fort Collins          CO      340
 15  Blacksburg            VA      326    (Southeast )        15  Davis Senior          CA      360
 16  Coe-Brown             NH      326    (Northeast )        16  Assumption            KY      361
 17  Saratoga              NY      337    (New York  )        17  Bellarmine Prep       WA      401
 18  Southlake Carroll     TX      371    (South     )        18  East Ridge            MN      424
 19  East Ridge            MN      384    (Heartland )        19  New Braunfels         TX      442
 20  The Woodlands         TX      397    (South     )        20  Southlake Carroll     TX      449
 21  Bellarmine Prep       WA      448    (Northwest )        21  Blacksburg            VA      451
 22  Naperville North      IL      450    (Midwest   )        22  The Woodlands         TX      591