Who is the Women's Individual Favorite?
It’s been a wild and wacky fall when it comes to the women’s individual race. Pre-season favorite Jordan Hasay started the season slow, Abbey D’Agostino busted out a great performance then got hurt, Betsy Saina has been solid throughout and a new star has risen to the top in Laura Hollander.
Despite all the ups and downs, these four have emerged as the four favorites heading into the NCAA Cross Country Championships, as each eyes their first collegiate cross country national title. Here’s the quick breakdown.
Jordan Hasay (Sr., Oregon): The 2011 runner-up lost by less than a second last fall in Terre Haute, as she watched now graduated Sheila Reid (Villanova) outkick her down the homestretch. Eyeing her first collegiate cross country title, Hasay seems due.
Hasay had a slow start to the season, as fans saw her finish fifth at Pre-Nationals, as she finished 20 seconds behind the winner and just didn’t look sharp. One can attribute it to a poor race, but more than likely she was keying in on the big meets at the end of the season that really matter.
The Oregon senior stepped it up at the Pac-12 Championships, where she finished second to Stanford’s Kathy Kroeger in 20:10, coming in only four second behind Kroeger. Fast forward to the West Regional this past weekend and Hasay came up big, winning over an incredibly talented field in 19:15.
The momentum seems to be on her side, as fans wait to see if she can pull off the victory.
Abbey D’Agostino (Jr., Dartmouth): While the Sheila Reid / Jordan Hasay finish was one to remember last fall, one need not forget the third place finisher in that race, who finished 1.1 seconds behind Hasay. That third place finisher was D’Agostino.
With a breakout performance in cross country, D’Agostino carried the momentum forward to have a breakout spring track season, which concluded with a 15:19.98 5k fifth place finish at the Olympic Trials, where she missed making Team USA by less than a quarter second.
After some down time, D’Agostino jumped back into racing at the Paul Short Invitational, which saw her win by 24 seconds in 19:58, but what really impressed is that almost that entire 24 seconds was put up in the last mile. Despite tough and talented early season racing, D’Agostino sat out the rest of the 2012 up until the Northeast Regional, nursing an injury that distance fans are hoping she’s fully recovered from.
At the Northeast Regional, D’Agostino won, quietly putting space between her and the rest of the field in the final stages, crossing the line in 19:51, four seconds up on second place. As she sprints into Louisville this weekend, D’Agostino is considered an underdog, but her past accomplishments are enough to make her one of the top favorites to take home gold.
Betsy Saina (Sr., Iowa State): Earning All-American more times than we can count (between cross country and track), Saina heads into her final race as a Cyclone on a mission to finish at the top. Last indoor season, Saina won her first national title, winning the 5,000m event and proving to herself that she could win the big race when it counted.
This fall, after a strong track season, Saina is proving once again that she’ll challenge for the victory. Despite a two second loss to Cal Poly freshman Laura Hollander at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational , Saina bounced back in a big way, winning the Big 12 Championship in 20:06, then winning the Midwest Regional in 19:51, besting the competition by four seconds.
Saina, similar to Hasay, is her team’s senior leader, as the Iowa State women’s squad eyes a national crown.
Laura Hollander (Fr., Cal Poly): At the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, an unsuspecting crowd witnessed a new star rising to the forefront of the NCAA cross country scene. Hollander, who showed plenty of talent as a prep, took home the victory in an incredible 19:33, posting a two second victory of runner-up Saina.
Hollander’s win brought her so much attention that there was no way to overlook her the rest of the season. While she easily won her conference meet, she faced another big test this past weekend at the West Regional, where she squared off against Hasay and Stanford’s Kathy Kroeger. While she didn’t win, losing by six seconds to Hasay, Hollander proved she belongs in the title discussion.
It’ll be interesting to see how her front running tactics work in a championship event, where she’s sure to be pushed by half dozen or more runners early on. She’s taken her running to a whole new level this fall and could have the last laugh in Louisville.