Nuttycombe Invite preview


MSU cross country runner Fatima Giron leads a pack of Central Michigan runners during a meet/ Photo Credit: Central Michigan Athletic Communications

Jake Lyskawa, Cross country beat reporter

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State cross country team is traveling to Madison, Wisconsin this Friday for the biggest test of the season thus far, the Nuttycombe Invitational. An elite national-level meet, the Nuttycombe Invite consistently plays host to the best runners in the country, and this year’s field is no different. 

Described as the “biggest meet of the regular season in NCAA DI Cross Country” by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, this year’s edition of the Nuttycombe Invite will feature eight of the top ten men’s and women’s teams in the USTFCCCA’s own rankings. 

The Michigan State men are coming off a two-week long break after taking third at the Roy Griak Invite in Minneapolis on Sep. 23. Senior Aden Smith continued his breakout season by taking first place in the men’s 8k that day. He became the first Spartan man to ever win the Roy Griak Invite. 

The Spartan men have been competitive in every meet they’ve run this season, finishing inside the top three for all three scoring meets thus far. The Spartans will face their most challenging test yet on Friday, but in a meet as big as the Nuttycombe Invite, a majority of the Michigan State men’s team will be available to run. 

As Smith looks to maintain his emergent season, veterans like Abdifetah Ahmed and John Petruno will also be relied upon as top scoring options for the Spartans. Emerging juniors Owen Huard and Andrew Nolan will also look to make an impact, as will graduate transfer CarLee Stimpfel, who is making his official debut in the green and white after running unattached in every previous race. 

A Division II All-American at Saginaw Valley State, Stimpfel has already proven to have solid front-running ability and a great deal of confidence at the Big Ten level. He’ll certainly be one to watch for the Spartans on Friday. 

Freshman Riley Hough is also set to make his attached debut in Madison. The high school standout from Hartland, Michigan, ran a personal best time of 14:10 in the cross country 5k his senior year of high school. That was the fifth-fastest time in the nation last season.

Speaking of stacked fields, the men’s 8k championship race on Friday will feature some of the best talent collegiate cross country has to offer. 

Casey Clinger will lead top-ranked BYU against the likes of Charles Hicks, Cole Sprout and Ky Robinson of No. 2 Stanford, as well as Nico Young, George Kusche and No. 3 Northern Arizona. 

The women’s side is by no means a cakewalk, either. Katelyn Tuohy, Samantha Bush and Sydney Seymour of No. 1 North Carolina State come in as the early favorites. But Gracelyn Larkin and No. 2 New Mexico will be right on their tails. Another name to look out for is No. 6 Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat, who finished right behind Tuohy in second place at the Joe Piane Invite late last month. 

After a smaller group of Spartan women took first place at the Lansing Invitational last weekend, a full roster will be available to compete against a loaded field in Madison. 

That includes sophomore Kaitlyn Hynes, who will look to replicate her early-season success at the Spartan Invite. Hynes won that meet in convincing fashion, proving she has much left in the tank following a Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign last cross country season. 

Veterans Katie Osika, Makenna Veen and Grace Molloy will also look to score highly for the Spartans. Senior Lauren Freeland and junior Emily Bardwell are set to build on their strong starts to the season as well. 

Sophomores Katelyn Stewart-Barnett and Sophia Lucki, as well as juniors Eleanor Kendell and Fatima Giron, are just a few more names to look out for amongst a deep and experienced women’s squad for the Spartans. 

With three top-three team finishes under their belt so far (including last week’s win) the Spartan women have some momentum on their side heading into Friday’s meet. The Michigan State women have flashed a ton of potential this season, and the Nuttycombe Invite could serve as another important building block toward a successful postseason run. 

The women’s 6k championship race will start at 1:20 p.m. EST, while the men’s 8k championship race will follow at 2:00 p.m. EST. Fans can watch the race live with a subscription to