Hannah Steelman Cross Country Contributed

The NC State cross country team runs its first meet on Friday, Sept. 17 at the Adidas XC Challenge in Cary, North Carolina. After a top-25 finish at the 2020 NCAA Championships for the men and a national runner-up honor for the women, the Wolfpack will be looking to build on last season’s success.

The women’s side goes into the season with some unfinished business after placing second at the 2020 NCAA Championships behind the BYU Cougars. The Wolfpack currently shares the No. 1 ranking with BYU, but it will surely make an effort to distinguish itself as the sole owner of the pole position.

With several returning women’s runners, the Pack will surely take another shot at the national title. Among these returning runners are graduates Hannah Steelman and Dominique Clairmonte as well as junior Kelsey Chmiel. Steelman and Chmiel finished fifth and ninth, respectively, at last year’s NCAA Championships while Clairmonte earned first place at last year’s ACC Championships.

The women’s team is also receiving a boost to its run at the national title in the form of freshman Brooke Rauber. The 2020 Gatorade New York State Cross Country Player of the Year provides new blood to an abundant veteran presence in NC State’s program. Freshman Sierra Collins also comes into the program as an established runner, as an NCHSAA 3A All-State finisher in 2020.

Both the men and women will be tested early and often in their regular season meets. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Wisconsin Badgers rank in the top 30 of both men’s and women’s, but the Pack’s regular season finale, a road meet against the East Carolina Pirates, will serve as a nice tune-up for the women’s pursuit of its sixth consecutive ACC title.

The men’s side, on the other hand, is forecasted for a down year. After placing 23rd in last season’s NCAA Championships, the Wolfpack men’s side is unranked heading into the 2021 season. Despite this outlook, the men are still looking to have a solid year.

One major return for the men’s side is graduate Ian Shanklin, who was the Wolfpack’s top finisher at the 2020 NCAA Championships with a 54th-place finish. If there is to be a resurgence in NC State men’s cross country, Shanklin will likely be the one leading the charge.

In the absence of Joe Bistritz, who graduated last year, State also welcomes a handful of new runners to bolster its men’s roster. Most notably, freshman Matt Bogdan brings a decorated resume with him to NC State, including the 2021 National Championship in the 2000-meter steeplechase at the Nike Outdoor Nationals. Freshmen Miles Ally, Grant Howlett and Wesley Larson also add their talents to the Wolfpack men’s roster.

With plenty of expectations for both the men’s and women’s sides, NC State has a clear goal in mind for 2021: win. As the women pursue a national championship and the men look to reload rather than rebuild, this season of Wolfpack cross country will be can't-miss athletics.