NCAA Women's XC Preview: Title Contenders And Podium Dark Horses

Title Contenders 

No. 1 New Mexico

Region: 2nd at Mountain

Conference: 1st at Mountain West

2016 NCAAs: 7th

How They Will Win: The Lobos have done an excellent job of putting four runners at the front of nearly every race this season, but the best indication of the Ednah Kurgat, Alice Wright, Charlotte Prouse, and Weini Kelati quartet's strength was seen at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational when they finished first, fourth, seventh, and 15th respectively. The Lobos have the front-runner firepower and a heavy favorite for an individual title contender in Kurgat, but the key to this team's chances at a team victory will be the fifth runner. Luckily, the team's fifth has been changing every meet and continues to improve. 

In Madison, Alondra Negron finished 60th and contributed to the Lobos' 87-point win over runner-up San Francisco (126). At the Mountain West Conference Championships, Sophie Eckel was the fifth scorer and finished 11th overall. Alex Buck was right behind her in 12th place. At the NCAA Mountain Regional, the Lobos rested Wright, but gave the opportunity for fourth and fifth positions to Buck and Negron who finished 27th and 34th, respectively. For every meet, the fifth runner has changed and improved, which indicates an even stronger chance at victory for this impressive New Mexico squad. 

FloTrack spoke to world steeplechase silver medalist Courtney Frerichs, who was a key contributor to the 2015 New Mexico squad that won NCAAs with just 49 points. Frerichs commented that the 2017 Lobos squad shares many similarities with the 2015 team, and she draws confidence from the fact that the fifth runner has changed throughout the season.