Women's Cross Country Runs ACC Title Streak to Six

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services, LLC

N.C. State's women's cross country team came into Friday's ACC Championships at Notre Dame with a five-year title streak, ranked Number 2 in the nation, and having received Number 1 votes in every national poll of the year. Given that State also has overwhelmng depth and the ACC allows every squad two extra runners on top of the usual seven - on top of cross country being a pretty low-variance sport to begin with - the outcome of the women's team race was not really in doubt. But even against that standard, the Wolfpack women had a dominant day.

State swept four of the first five places on the way to tying the meet record with a 20-point score. (ANNUAL EXPLANATION OF CROSS COUNTRY SCORING: Your place in the race is your individual score. The first five inviduals on a team are added up, and the lowest score wins. Sixth and seventh runners aren't added, but do count as scorers in terms of pushing back runners on other teams. Anyone past seven, and anyone on a team with less than five finishers, is not included in the places for scoring. 15 is a perfect score.) Sophomore Kelsey Chmiel won the individual title, the third straight by Wolfpack runners, with a 6k time of 20: 02.7. Freshman Katelyn Tuohy was seven seconds back in second. Seniors Hannah Steelman (20:19.9) and Allie Hayes (20:22.5) were fourth and fifth. Sophomore Samantha Bush (20:32.2) completed the State scoring in eighth, and junior Heather Holt (20:46.3) also earned all-ACC honors in 17th.

With windy conditions and a flat course, the race did not spread out as quickly as a women's race usually does, and at 3.2k (2 miles, 11:12 for the leader) there were still 41 women within three seconds of the front. In a pack like that specific places don't mean much, but the Wolfpack women went fromt having no presence on the front rank in the first kilometer to holding seven of the first 14 places at two miles, a clear sign they were ready when things got going. By mile 3 (16:21) things broke open as the top five (four State women and eventual third-place Amanda Vestri of Syracuse) opened a gap on the field, and even though only a second separated them they were already in the order they would finish. Chmiel steadily pulled away from Vestry and then Tuohy over the last 1000 meters to claim her first ACC title in any season (though she has already earned four all-American honors.)

Some numbers:

  • State put five women in front of every other team's second runner, six in front of every other team's third runner, and NINE in front of everyone else's fifth runner.
  • That last stat is somewhat misleading - State only had nine runners, and for sure had other women who could've beaten FSU's fifth runner who was 32nd. At least two (as in, people who cannot redshirt and who I saw pictures of warming up with the team yestereday) and maybe as many as 5 with women whose workouts or unattached races put them in that group, but who can maybe redshirt or who I can't swear are 100% healthy over the past couple weeks. So - quite possibly the second best team in the ACC is the NC State B-team.
  • State would've easily beaten the rest of the ACC combined, even though the rest of the ACC contains the #10, #13, #16, and #21 teams in the country.
  • You don't even assign a point-value to a team's 8th runner, but if you did, and State had to score eight runners against everyone else's five, they still would have won.
  • In the past six years, NC State's NCAA places are 5th, 4th, 8th, 13th, 5th, 2nd. The lowest ACC meet score from those teams was 47.
  • The six-year title streak is one short of the ACC record of seven jointly held by 1987-93 NC State and 2007-13 Florida State.
  • Based on the official 6k split from the men's race, the State women would've clearly beaten the Miami men.
The NC State women should have an easy time of it at the Southeast regional in Louisville in a couple of weeks, and their entire focus is going to be on setting things up for the NCAA championship in Talahassee on Nov. 20. State dropped from the Number One spot after a close loss to New Mexico two weeks ago, but Steelman did not run that meet and the Wolfpack would have won fairly handily had she been anywhere near her usual results. BYU and Colorado also have to be considered serious contenders. State coach Laurie Henes will face some tough lineup decisions, as some of the Pack's highest upside individuals (defending ACC champ Dominique Clairemont who was 24th today, and 5000-meter track all-American Savannah Shaw who was 25th, to name two) have not really shown the best form yet this fall.

The NC State men placed sixth in the ACC as the hosts Notre Dame put their full squad on the course for the first time this fall and easily defended their title, scoring 32 to runner-up Syracuse's 84. The Irish are perhaps underrated, having dropped to eighth after multiple partial-squad meets after opening the season at Number Two. The rest of the conference is somewhat down this year, with only Florida State ranked. The Seminoles were led by NCAA-title contender Adriaan Wildschutt's individual win but lacked depth and were just ahead of State in fifth, behind Wake and uNC. State did finish ahead of Duke which was receiving votes in the most recent national poll - a repeat of that at the regional could earn them an NCAA bid, especially if they can move up slightly and beat Wake or Carolina.
Individually, Gavin Gaynor in 17th and J.P. Flavin in 20th earned all-ACC honors for the Pack. State is missing all-American Ian Shanklin, runner-up at last-year's meet who is redshirting this fall.