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Stan Becton | | November 16, 2023

The case for 4 schools to win the women’s cross country title

2023 DI women's NCAA cross country South Regional | FULL RACE

It's almost time for the DI women's cross country championships. Here's why four schools have a shot at winning the team title.

NC State

NC State is the two-time defending women's cross country champion — and it has what it takes to three-peat. It starts at the top with the defending individual champion Katelyn Tuohy and 2022's third-place finisher Kelsey Chimel. While Tuohy's no shoo-in to win the individual race this year and we haven't seen Chimel run since ACCs, the duo can still finish early enough to get NC State off to the start it needs in the team race.

Behind those two, Samantha Bush, Grace Hartman and freshman Leah Stephens figure to be the next to cross the finish line, with all showing the talent at prior invitationals and meets to finish in the top 25 finishers. The Wolfpack could have another scoring finisher in Amaris Tyynismaa if the ninth-place finisher from last year's championships is running at full health. If everyone at NC State runs their best race, the Wolfpack could cross six across the finish line before another school crosses five.

CHAMPIONSHIP UPDATES: Live updates of the 2023 NCAA cross country championships

Northern Arizona

Northern Arizona enters the championships as the top-ranked team in the country. The Lumberjacks finished only sixth last year, but return 2022's fourth-place finisher Elise Stearns. Stearns and Annika Reiss are two of the returnees expected to score points for NAU, but the transfer portal put the Lumberjacks in title contention.

Since arriving at NAU this year, Gracelyn Larkin has been magnificent, most recently winning the Mountain regional. Larkin and fellow transfers Ruby Smee and Aliandrea Upshaw give NAU the five scorers with experience entering the championship race. Another newcomer, freshman Keira Moore, has also emerged as a potential point scorer for the Lumberjacks, giving NAU a shot at finally adding a women's championship to its deep trophy case.

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BYU is the most recent women's cross country champion not named NC State. The Cougars won the Big 12 this year with five runners in the top 10 and six runners in the top 20. It's running like that that gives BYU a title shot. BYU might not have a runner finish in the top five, but it has the depth to get all five scoring runners inside the top 20. That could be enough to get the Cougars on top of the podium come Saturday.

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Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State finished fourth at last year's championships and return a veteran group. Upperclassmen Molly Born, Taylor Roe and Gabija Galvydyte all figure to score high, with Roe looking to surpass her second- and fifth-place finish at the 2021 championships.

However, it may be a trio of sophomores that are the difference makers in Oklahoma State's title run. Cayden Dawson or Payton Hinkle figure to be a fifth-point scorer for the Cowgirls, while Billah Jepkirui has been one of the best individual runners in the country this season. If Jepkirui can continue her climb up the ranks — building off of first-place finishes at the Midwest regional and Cowboy Jamboree — Oklahoma State has a shot at a title.

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