The Jack Jibb hype train has arrived.
One of the nation's best steeplechasers on the track, Jibb was also 9th at Foot Locker Northeast Regionals last year and brings an instant boost to Cross Country. Behind Jibb's first race of the year, the Bulls raced to an impressive fourth-place showing at Lehigh's Paul Short Invitational.
This is only one of three races among college men, but looking at the fields it's clear it was the strongest. UB's fourth is darn good, too; the only teams to finish ahead of them are Mid-Atlantic 1-2 and nationally ranked Villanova (7th) and Georgetown (14th) and Canada's University of Guelph, who has won nine consecutive CIS National Championships.
What's even better is UB continues to run in a tight pack, with their lead four coming in within 10 seconds and the next three within 13 of each other. It would be great to get five runners into a single pack, but as it stands only four teams in the field brought everyone in more tightly.
More good news: Compared to Buffalo's last race, the entire group is about 40 seconds faster than at the UB Stampede. Compared to last year's showing on the same course, UB ran about the same time-wise but moved up from seventh in the team standings. Last year UB's strong showing vaulted them into the Northeast Regional rankings. This year I'd expect them to move up from 15th when the new polls are released.
UB's women are lead by a standout freshman of their own in Chardae Henry, who has led the Bulls three weeks running now.
UB's eighth-place result is a strong one after finishing 24th last year. They didn't top either of the two other teams in the Northeast rankings that were also in the race (Connecticut and Albany), but finishing close enough to them to hopefully warrant a jump into next week's lists. They did top Navy, George Washington, and Maryland, all ranked in the Mid-Atlantic, Xavier (Great Lakes), and South Carolina (Southeast).
We rarely get to see the Bulls take on a MAC opponent before the conference championships. Today Buffalo was an average of 17 seconds behind Bowling Green, who is one of five MAC teams ranked in the Great Lakes region.
Looking to last year, the Bulls are still running faster as a group. Corinne Birchard and Meagan Hopkins each dropped time from last year but slipped relative to their teammates, and the 34 second pack from first to fifth is, as I've said so often, how you win. No team in the top 20 run closer together.
Both teams are off for two weeks and will be heading to Pre-Nationals in Louisville on the 17th in their final tune up before the MAC Championships. It will likely be the strongest field UB has seen in several years, and a strong showing there would be significant. The rest of the squad that doesn't travel will compete in Western New York at the Canisius Alumni Classic