NXN Boys Team Preview: Lincroft Looks To Defend
Despite all of the incredibly talented teams to pass through the boys side of NXN since the meet’s inception in 2004, no team has won back-to-back titles. It’s a shock that this has never happened, but also shows the strength and diversity of teams who consistently show up and run themselves onto the trophy stand.
Last year’s defending champion, Lincroft XC Club (NJ) is looking to become the first team to win two years in a row. All season long the squad has been touted as the favorite to win, all season long the squad has smashed course records for total team times and even won their New Jersey State Cross Country Championship title running their 6-12 runners.
The key to Lincroft’s success is their pack. In 2011, the team won with a mere 24 second 1-5 split, edging runner-up Carroll (TX) by four points. Seniors Jack Boyle and Billy Bragg and junior Mike McClemens lead the squad this time around and are once again hoping to run a strong 1-5 split.
At the Great American XC Festival earlier in the fall, the team dominated strong competition with a 19 second 1-5 split, while the team had to close hard at the Northeast Regional this past week to pull off the 73-90 victory over Philadelphia XC Club, while running a 47 second split. If they can get their split back down to under 30 seconds, we could be looking at the first repeat champion in NXN boys history.
While Lincroft is the favorite, there are plenty of other teams who will challenge for the title, most notably American Fork C Club (UT), North Spokane XC Club (WA), Carroll XC Club (TX) and Arcadia XC Club (CA).
American Fork has placed 8th (2009), 8th (2010) and 6th (2011) the past three years and this squad is running as strong, if not stronger, than any of those teams. The squad led by Brayden Mclelland, Connor McMillan and Tyson Green ran the fastest team time in NXN Southwest Regional history this year, as they trumped in-state rival Davis XC Club for the team title, 36-163, finishing with a 22 second 1-5 split. With another strong race from fifth man Caleb Thompson, American Fork could very easily pull off the upset.
Not to be outdone, North Spokane is looking for another impressive finish. After easily besting the competition all season long, North Spokane has been running without their number one runner Kai Wilmot. Wilmot, who didn’t run at the Washington State Cross Country Championships or the NXN Northwest Regional, is questionable for Saturday’s race, but should he run, this squad is certainly in contention for the top spot.
After winning the NXN title in 2008, North Spokane also has two 6th (2007 and 2010) and 7th place finishes (2009 and 2011) to their credit. This year’s team hopes to give them another high finish. Even without Wilmot, the team follows the lead of Tanner Anderson and Keith Williams, who finished sixth and eighth respectively at NXN Northwest. With depth on their side, and a 58-113 win at NXN Northwest, North Spokane comes into the meet with much momentum.
Coming from the NXN South Regional, Carroll has been on a roll all season long. Ranked in the top three in most national team polls, Carroll easily ran through in-state rival The Woodlands (TX) at the Texas State Cross Country Championships 27-71, then put even more space between them at NXN South, 32-129.
The squad’s top four of Nate Sullivan, Joe Sansone, Trevor Gilley and Conner Hendrickson quite possibly the top quartet in the field, but it really comes down to their fifth runner, who finished 39 seconds off their fourth runner at NXN South and 32 seconds off their fourth at their state meet. If he can close the gap to within 16-20 seconds, Carroll could hoist the championship trophy after losing out on the top spot last year by only four points.
Young, but far from inexperienced, Arcadia looks to bring the NXN title back to California. After winning in 2010, and finishing fourth in 2011, Arcadia stomped through the competition in California, on their way to a decisive 56-139 victory in the combined scoring at the California State Cross Country Championships. Following the lead of standouts Estevan De La Rosa, Mitchell Pratt and freshman star Phillip Rocha, the squad runs a tight pack (37 second 1-5 split at state). With only one senior in their top seven, this is a team to watch not only this year, but also next year.
Following closely on the heels of the big five are notable contenders Louisville XC Club (KY), Elmhurst XC Club (IL), Philadelphia XC Club (PA) and Manlius XC Club (NY). All five squads put up big performances at big-time meets this fall, while performing very well across the board at their respective NXN regionals.
With so much depth this year, don’t be shocked to see an upset or two take place and a team or two end up in the top five you didn’t think would finish there. However, at the end of the day, the favorite heading into NXN is the Lincroft XC Club. Can they create some history? We’ll find out soon enough.