NXN Girls Team Preview: Can Manlius Make It Seven?
Since 2006, only one girls team has stood atop the podium, hoisting the championship trophy above their heads. Manlius XC Club (NY) has amazed cross country fans around the nation for the past six years, first establishing themselves as a team to watch year in and year out, then moving in to full on dynasty mode. If there is one team in the past decade that has the right to be called a dynasty, it’s Manlius.
While it’s any teams’ race to win at Nike Cross Nationals 2012, Manlius is certainly the favorite to win once again. While their top runner Jillian Fanning dealt with injuries much of the season, she’s been gaining fitness the past few weeks and has put herself in the squad’s top four heading to Portland.
Led by Fanning, fellow senior Katie Brislin, junior Alana Pearl and sophomore Annika Avery, the squad enters riding a wave of momentum from their dominating NXN New York Regional performance, where they beat rival Kinetic XC Club 28-59, behind a dominating two second 1-4 split.
Manlius lost once earlier in the season to Wilmington XC Club (DE), at the Manhattan College Invitational, but that loss came without Fanning in the lineup. Back to relatively close strength, Manlius will more than likely pack it up once again and try to run away from the field. The odds are on their side.
As stated, Wilmington XC Club beat Manlius earlier in the season. Led by senior front runner Reagan Anderson, the squad runs a tight pack of less than a minute often times and five strong runners working together gives them a great chance to achieve another upset, this time on an even greater scale. The key for Wilmington is senior Rebecca Salter, who didn’t run state, but has the potential for a big race. Eighth grader Caroline Folles is also coming on strong and could be a key performer.
While Wilmington could be viewed as the chief rival of Manlius at NXN, one need not overlook Louisville XC Club (KY), who actually edged out Wilmington at the NXN Southeast Regional 92-93. Led by the quartet of Bailey Davis, Katherine Receveur, Emily Bean and Kate Crawford, this team has come up big time and again in 2012, and could easily surprise the field in Saturday’s race.
Like a few other top squads, they are extremely strong through four runners, but it all really comes down to their fifth runner. Their 1-5 split at NXN Southeast was 1:23, but the gap of 29 seconds between their 4-5 runners is really what needs to close. If their fifth can cut that gap in half, Louisville could very well find themselves on the podium.
The team coming into Nike Cross Nationals with arguably the most momentum is NXN Northeast Regional champion Lower Bucks XC Club (PA). With three freshmen in their top five, this squad has come out of no where this season to show they are a definite trophy contender and maybe even have the talent to knock off Manlius. Stars Maddie Sauer and Sara Sargent lead the way, as both will be vying for top ten team individual finishes.
The big question for Lower Bucks is how well Erica Gray performs. She was their second runner at state, but finished as their sixth runner at NXN Northeast. If she can run up with 3-4 runners Hannah Molloy and Olivia Sargent, this team will be very hard to beat. They run a tight pack. At the Pennsylvania State Cross Country Championships they ran a tremendous 28-second 1-5 split, while at NXN Northeast they ran a 47 second split.
Regional winners Carroll XC Club (TX), Carmel XC Club (IN) and Coeur d’Alene XC Club (ID) all have a shot to trophy in Portland, as well. All run extremely tight packs, as Coeur d’Alene won NXN Northwest with a 33 second split, Carmel won NXN Midwest with a 23 second split, while Carroll won NXN South with a 44 second split. Such pack running tends to do very well in a loaded field such as NXN, meaning each team is certainly in the mix for a top three finish.
Outside of Manlius, the most historically accomplished team in the field is Kinetic XC Club (NY). The squad has qualified for all but one of the NXN championships, winning the very first championship in 2004. While this year’s squad isn’t as deep as in past years, they still fared well against Manlius at NXN New York, losing 28-59, but running a strong 1:28 1-5 split off of star lead runner Taylor Driscoll. Driscoll finished third overall at NXN New York, but was the top team finisher and could find herself in a similar situation at NXN. Keelin Hollowood and Olivia Morrow are both expected to finish very high up for the team, too.
While regional winners get much of the attention due to their NXN regional dominance, California teams can often times get overlooked, as teams are invited off of their state meet performances. This year’s California champion, Temecula XC Club (CA), proved all season long they are the top team in the state and a trophy threat in Portland. Similar to other top squads, they run a 30 second 1-5 split off of top runners Miranda Kewley and Ashley Helbig. The team won the California DI title by a 57-115 margin, while separating themselves even more in the combined scores, 57-133.