The Warm-Up Lap: Arkansas, Tulsa to Settle Tight Rankings Battle at MSSU
NEW ORLEANS – After a slew of prominent meets in the Midwest and Great Lakes last weekend, this weekend’s cross country action featuring ranked teams decentralizes and shifts more toward the continental coastlines across all three NCAA Divisions and the NAIA.
Many top Division I programs are idle this weekend as the heart of the cross country season starts to pump next weekend with the start of at-large consideration and such big meets as the Roy Griak and the Cowboy Jamboree, but a trio of meets around the country will pit top-30 squads against one another — including a pair of teams within the top six separated by just one vote at Missouri Southern.
Division II’s calendar is more active over the course of the next few days, with a pair of meets out west at Colorado College and Spokane that will feature a combined 11 teams from the National Coaches Polls — including three top-10 teams in one race — in addition to a top NAIA program.
Southern Maine is the center of attention in Division III this weekend as a combined eight ranked teams between men’s and women’s squads will square off in Gorham, including a top-five team making its season debut. Wheaton (Ill.) and St. Olaf will also stage events with multiple top-35 programs.
NAIA action this weekend will be headlined by The Master’s College’s Mustang Challenge and the College of Idaho’s Coyote Twilight, which between the two will showcase nearly a quarter of NAIA’s ranked squads from both genders.
Last, but not least, keep current with the latest headlines from the wire.
The No. 5 Arkansas and No. 6 Tulsa men are currently separated by their largest vote margin of the 2013 season in the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) DI National Coaches Polls — one vote. The Razorbacks inched ahead of the Golden Hurricane this week after the two squads tied for the fifth spot in the preseason polls back in August.
The time has now come to settle the virtual tie on the course, as the two will square off at the Missouri Southern Stampede on Saturday. Having not competed since two weekends ago and with its next meet not scheduled until the first weekend of October, Arkansas is somewhat more likely to suit up and push its full "A" squad than Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane is slated for Oklahoma State’s Cowboy Jamboree next weekend in a meet that will have ramifications on eventual national championships at-large qualification consideration.
Arkansas’ No. 10 women’s squad will also be in action.
Farther to the west and one day earlier, the No. 2 Northern Arizona men headline the Arizona Dave Murray Invitational on Friday. Like Tulsa, the Lumberjacks have a date at Oklahoma State next weekend, but in the meantime will get a good tune-up against the likes of No. 28 Arizona State and host Arizona (which will not feature the debut of The Bowerman finalist Lawi Lalang).
The host’s women’s squad is ranked quite highly at No. 5 after jumping up two spots in the National Coaches Poll this week, and will run a majority of its top squad before heading off to Minnesota for Roy Griak next weekend.
Cary, N.C. is the site of the other top-30 tussle this weekend as the No. 4 Duke women — ranked as high as No. 1 by The Wood Report and No. 2 by LetsRun.com and Track & Field News — compete for the first time in several weekends against No. 21 NC State. Without another meet on the schedule until the first weekend of October, look for the Blue Devils to trot out a number of their top runners for the occasion. On the men’s side, No. 25 NC State will be in action.
Both top-ranked squads in the Coaches Polls are idle this weekend in the Oklahoma State men and Providence women. The No. 14 UCLA men will be making their season debut at The Mustang Challenge at The Master’s College.
Stay tuned for next weekend, when the stakes will be raised with at-large consideration finally at stake at such big meets as the Oklahoma State Cowboy Invitational, the Minnesota Roy Griak Invitational and the Colorado Rocky Mountain Shootout.
Colorado has been the site of devastating and deadly flooding over the course of the past week, particularly in the Denver area and northward along the foothills of the Rockies. To the south, Colorado Springs has also been impacted by flood damage. Nevertheless, Colorado College — located in Colorado Springs — will move forward with its home invitational this Saturday morning that will bring a number of the state’s top-ranked teams together during this trying time.
Though the top-ranked, defending national champion Adams State men are the big attraction at the meet, the women’s race could potentially hold more intrigue as two top-10 programs will duke it out over six kilometers in No. 2 Adams State and No. 9 Metro State.
After jumping 14 spots from the preseason to No. 9 in the first regular-season edition of the National Coaches Poll, Metro State will face its first big test as a top-10 team against an RMAC rival they will see multiple more times this season.
On the men’s side of things, Adams State will take on No. 16 UC-Colorado Springs.
The Plantes Ferry Sports Stadium in Spokane, Wash., will rumble beneath the feet of the Division II National Championships field on November 23 and at the West Regionals before that, but this weekend it will serve as the site for the Runners Soul Erik Anderson Invitational. At least three ranked teams in both the men’s and women’s race will take to the course on Saturday in the largest meeting of Division II ranked programs in the country this weekend.
No. 6 Simon Fraser’s women will look to ride a wave of momentum that propelled them up seven spots in the recent national polls against a field that includes No. 10 UC-Colorado Springs and No. 18 Midwestern State, along with NAIA No. 16 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).
From unranked in the preseason to No. 11 in the latest National Coaches Polls, New Mexico Highlands is the main attraction on the men’s side against No. 17 Humboldt State, along with NAIA No. 10 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho).
As mentioned in the Division I section, Missouri Southern will host its Stampede on Saturday, when the No. 7 men will entertain– in addition to Arkansas and Tulsa — No. 19 Southwest Baptist and No. 23 Saint Mary (Kan.) of the NAIA. The last time Eric Schott of MSSU took on Arkansas, he beat all but two of their runners en route to National Athlete of the Week honors. In the women’s race, No. 23 Southwest Baptist is the lone ranked team from DII.
Malone (No. 19 women, No. 20 men) will host its home invitational Friday which will also include the No. 22 Ashland men.
From the West for Division II to the East for Division III, as the crux of DIII’s happenings over the next few days will take place in Gorham, Maine, at the Southern Maine Invitational. Both the men’s and women’s races will spotlight four top-35 programs each, including three top-11 men’s squads. Bowdoin will make its 2013 debut as the No. 5 team in the nation against No. 7 Bates and No. 11 Tufts, which will also be in action for the first time this season. No. 28 MIT is also scheduled to compete.
On the women’s side, No. 3 MIT headlines a field not quite as top-heavy as its men’s counterpart, but still very competitive with No. 19 Bates, No. 24 Amherst and No. 29 Tufts. The Engineers are the only team among the nation’s top seven with a meet on the schedule this weekend.
The men’s top seven, however, is very active. In addition to Bowdoin and Bates, a pair of top-four squads will face off at Saturday’s Wheaton (Ill.) Invitational in No. 1 North Central (Ill.) and No. 4 Washington (Mo.). The defending NCC Cardinals — and two-time reigning National Athlete of the Week John Crain — have competed in each of the past two weekends, so look for a different lineup this weekend as they take on the Bears.
Washington earned a preseason No. 1 vote, which has since been reclaimed by North Central in the first regular-season edition of the National Coaches Poll. Expect a strong showing from inaugural National Athlete of the Week Drew Padgett and the Bears, fresh off a long break and competing for the first time since the season opener on the last day of August.
No. 32 host Wheaton (Ill.) will also be in the field on the men’s side, while the women’s startlist is headlined by No. 25 Washington (Mo.).
The third and final big meet of the weekend will take place Saturday in Northfield, Minn., at St Olaf. At No. 12 in both the men’s and women’s polls, the host is the headliner in both races. The No. 12 Oles women will toe the start line against No. 15 Carleton and No. 32 Gustavus Adolphus, while the No. 12 Oles men will be up against No. 23 Central (Iowa), which is looking to bounce back after tumbling from No. 7 nationally in the preseason.
The Indiana Intercollegiates — in addition to a number of teams from other NCAA divisions and the NAIA — will feature a men’s top-35 matchup in No. 17 Wabash against No. 27 Manchester.
The No. 17 Ithaca women will split its squad between the RPI Invitational and the SUNY Cortland Jack Daniels Invitational. At RPI they will see No. 30 Vassar, and the host SUNY Cortland women are No. 34.
The top-ranked teams in Wednesday’s newest NAIA Top-25 Polls — the St. Francis (Ill.) men and the British Columbia women — are both off this weekend, but plenty of action will take place out West.
The Mustang Challenge, hosted by The Master’s College (No. 11 men, No. 13 women) will feature a total seven ranked teams, including four on the men’s side. That men’s race will be highlighted by a top-tier matchup between No. 9 CSU San Marcos and No. 11 The Master’s, which will both be challenged by No. 18 Arizona Christian and No. 21 Westmont (Calif.). Also competing is No. 14 UCLA of NCAA Division I, which will be making its season debut.
All three of the women’s teams in the race are ranked within the top-13, setting up for a very competitive contest. No. 3 CSU San Marcos — led by NAIA Runner of the Week Ayded Reyes — and No. 9 Westmont (Calif.) combine for a top-10 showdown, joined by No. 13. The Master’s.
To the northeast in Caldwell, Idaho, the College of Idaho will host its Coyote Twilight, which will feature five ranked teams. The women’s race will pit No. 2 College of Idaho — and top runner Hillary Holt — against No. 11 Northwest Christian (Ore.).
No. 13 Eastern Oregon highlights the men’s race, up against No. 13 Oregon Tech and No. 22 Northwest Christian (Ore.).
What’s hot in the world of track & field and cross country this week? Here’s what the USTFCCCA has been following from Track & Field News, FloTrack, LetsRun.com and various other sources around the web.
- Wood Report Rankings: Men | Women
- LetsRun.com Fan Rankings: Men & Women
- Running Times Q&A: Oklahoma State Senior Tom Farrell
- Okie State Going For 4th NCAA Title In 5 Years
- Washington’s Katie Flood Coming Back To Her Old Form
- Betsy Saina’s Impact Remains At Iowa State
- FloTrack Recruiting Class Rankings
- Vanderbilt Coach Won’t Run From Fight With Cancer
- Legendary Alabama Prep Coach Harris Passes
- 5 Questions w/ UCLA Throws Coach John Frazier
- Olympic legend Carl Lewis to become volunteer coach at alma mater Houston
- Michigan Names Steven Rajewsky Assistant Coach
- Kareem Jackson Named Assistant Coach At Wisconsin
- Tom Dibbern named new head coach at Texas A&M-Commerce
Track & Field:
- RIP: Former Div. III Champ Johanna Olson
- Hurdler (& 2011 The Bowerman Finalist) Jeshua Anderson Still Thinking Football
- ‘My Best Is Yet To Come,’ Says 2010 The Bowerman Women’s Finalist Okagbare
- 2011 The Bowerman Winner Jessica Beard: One-Lap Warrior
- Alabama Complex Looks To Stage Bigger Meets (Site of 2013 DII Indoor Championships)
Thankfully This Doesn’t Happen in College XC: