The NC State cross country teams kick off their seasons on Sept. 20, hoping to build on the program’s success over the last couple of years.
Most Pack fans don’t realize how good the cross country squads are and how high they get in the Division I rankings. As a difficult sport for fans to watch because of the lack of home meets, some of the school’s most impressive athletes aren’t in the spotlight.
Women’s cross country is coming off an ACC title, first place at the southeast regional and a 13th-place finish at NCAA Championships last year. The big thing for the team is that it’s returning with most of its top runners from a season ago.
Coming into the 2019 season, the Pack women are the ACC favorites, NCAA Southeast Region favorites and ranked at No. 10 in the country. Few other NC State programs have ever received those accolades on a national scale, and rightfully so, as the women have won three straight regional championships and three straight ACC championships.
Most notably returning for the women are senior Elly Henes and redshirt junior Dominique Clairmonte, who finished in the top five for the southeast region, as well as all-regional runners junior Isabel Zimmerman and sophomore Heather Holt.
All seven women competitors finished in the top 35 at the southeast regional, with sophomore Savannah Shaw and redshirt sophomore Nevada Mareno joining the previously mentioned four in returning to the team this year.
On the other side, the men are also seeing similar predictions, as they are the favorite to win the southeast region while ranking third in the ACC preseason poll and 13th in the national poll. Men’s cross country is coming off an ACC third-place finish, winning the southeast region and an 11th-place finish at the NCAAs.
Returning for the men are junior Ian Shanklin, redshirt junior Joe Bistritz and redshirt junior Edwin Rutto, who were the top three finishers for the Pack in the men’s 10K at the regional last year. Redshirt junior Gavin Gaynor and redshirt senior Ben Barrett finished fifth and sixth for NC State in that race and are also returning.
Henes, Clairmonte, Zimmerman and Holt from the women's squad and Shanklin, Bistritz, Rutto and Gaynor from the men’s team all earned all-region honors for their performances in 2018. Success is almost guaranteed for these teams this year, but the question is: how high is the ceiling?
NC State cross country takes its first step in a long season on Friday, Sept. 20 at the WakeMed Soccer Park XC Course in Cary, N.C. for the Adidas XC Challenge. It’s the only home meet for both teams this year.
The men’s 6K will start at 6 p.m. and the women’s 5K will begin at 6:25 p.m.