The Warm-Up Lap: New England Championships and NAIA Pre-Nationals in the Spotlight
NEW ORLEANS – Two big weekends of collegiate cross country have given way to a relatively light weekend, particularly in Divisions I and II, but the weekend slates for both Division III and the NAIA feature meets that will have significant national impact.
All NCAA Divisions will be competing at the New England Cross Country Championships, but the crux of the action will be its Division III entrants with a combined 10 ranked teams between the men’s and women’s races, including a clash between the No. 3 Middlebury and No. 4 MIT women.
NAIA‘s weekend is highlighted by its Pre-National Meet in Lawrence, Kan., where a combined 17 ranked men’s and women’s squads will compete. No. 3 Aquinas (Mich.) will take on a pair of top-10 squads in the men’s race, while No. 9 Dordt and No. 10 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) go head-to-head in the women’s race.
Division II is rapidly approaching its conference championships season, with major meets winding down. This weekend’s top meets include the UC San Diego Triton Classic and the UW-Parkside Lucian Rosa Invitational.
Finally, while the Division I schedule is very light this weekend with most teams resting their top runners in advance of next weekend’s big Pre-Nationals and Wisconsin adidias Invitational meets, The Warm-Up Lap gives you a sneak peek of what awaits next weekend.
The full weekend schedule can be found in the USTFCCCA Infozone Meets This Weekend page.
But first, here are this week’s headlines:
Coaching & Administrative
Food for Thought
Track & Field
New England Cross Country Championships
Boston is the site of this weekend’s biggest meeting of NCAA ranked teams as teams from all around the New England area gather to compete at the 101st New England intercollegiate Amateur Athletic Association (NEICAAA) Cross Country Championships on Saturday. This year is particularly special, as it marks 100 years since the meet (then just a men’s race) was first held at Franklin Park in 1913 — the same location at which the meet has been held every year since, excepting 1918 when the meet was not held.
Dartmouth’s men and Boston College’s women are the defending team champions, and American International’s two-time National Athlete of the Week Mike Biwott is shooting for his second individual title in a row and the fifth consecutive title for AIC, but the biggest plotline this year is the conflux of ranked Division III squads that will be competing — five each in both the men’s and women’s races — with significant regional and national implications.
New England Championships
In the women’s race, a top-four match-up between No. 3 Middlebury and No. 4 MIT is the headliner, with No. 12 Tufts, No. 19 Bates and No. 32 Amherst giving chase. Middlebury is the top team in the New England region over MIT, while Tufts and Bates are fourth and fifth, respectively.
Two weekends ago the Panthers of Middlebury emerged victorious from a tight team battle at the Purple Valley Classic against MIT and No. 5 Williams, 38-43-46. The squad placed four runners in the top eight, led by the pair of Erzsebet Nagy and Katherine Tercek in fifth and sixth, respectively. Depth is a strength for the Panthers, as Alison Maxwell — individual winner of the Bard Invitational the week before and Middlebury’s No. 3 at NCAAs a year ago — was the eighth Panther to cross the line and the team still notched the individual win. Also yet to debut is Lucy Whipps, the team’s No. 2 finisher at NCAAs a year ago.
MIT also placed four in the top 10 at the Purple Valley Classic, led by individual runner-up Elaine McVay and fourth-place finisher Kali Benavides — both juniors. Also key for the Engineers will be Kaitlin Allen, who finished runner-up in the season-opening Southern Maine Invitational. Yet to debut for the Engineers is Sarah Quinn, the team’s No. 3 at NCAAs last season.
Unlike at the Purple Valley Classic where MIT was narrowly edged out for the team title, the Engineers were able to pull out a close team victory at Southern Maine by just two points over No. 12 Tufts, 52-54.
For Tufts, sophomore Audrey Gould was a 68th-place individual finisher as a freshman at NCAAs last season as the team’s only representative, but the Jumbos look to have an NCAA Championships worthy squad this year behind Gould and fellow sophomore Olivia Beltrani. The pair joined with senior Abby Barker to give Tufts three runners in the top 10 at USM.
Right behind MIT’s McVay at USM in third was Hannah Zeltner of Bates, who will lead her No. 19 squad into NEICAAAs this weekend. The Bobcats were third at USM and runners-up in the Maroon III race at the Roy Griak Invitational two weekends ago behind Zeltner’s ninth-place finish and three other runners among the top 23 finishers.
New England Championships
The men’s race will feature No. 4 MIT as the top-ranked team against No. 14 Bates, No. 22 Bowdoin, No. 24 Middlebury and No. 30 Tufts.
For the Engineers, this will be their first action since claiming the Purple Valley Classic two weekends ago. Roy Wedge finished third to lead a pack of three top-five finishers to a team score of 41, well clear of runner-up (and now-No. 5) Williams’ 59 points. Wedge also led the Engineers to a charge into the top five the week prior following a team win at the USM Invitational, where he finished third overall among four top-10 MIT finishers for 37 points and a dominant team win over a host of ranked teams
Among those ranked teams was runner-up Bates, well off MIT’s pace with 85 points. Senior Tully Hannan was the fifth-place overall finisher at NCAAs last season, while Mike Martin was the No. 2 on that NCAA squad and was the team’s top finisher at USM as the runner-up.
Third at USM was No. 22 Bowdoin, which was No. 5 in the country at the time but has since dropped in the poll. Coby Horowitz, ninth at NCAAs a year ago, won the race in the squad’s season debut to earn National Athlete of the Week honors, and the team was third by just one point. Most recently the Polar Bears’ four-man contingent ran very well at Pre-Nationals this past weekend with all four in the meet’s top 30, including a runner-up finish by Horowitz. Yet to debut this season is fellow All-American Sam Seekins, 17th at NCAAs a year ago.
Middlebury was third as a team at the Purple Valley Classic behind three top-10 finishers, while Tufts was fourth at USM with all five of its scoring runners between 15th and 22nd, the smallest spread of any team at the meet.
Outside of New England very few nationally ranked Division III teams will be going head-to-head this weekend. No. 20 Wartburg and No. 31 Augustana (Ill.) will square off at Wartburg’s Dan Huston Invitational, while No. 17 SUNY Cortland and No. 34 St. Lawrence will do battle at the Ronald Hoffmann Invitational.
In top-10 action, No. 1 North Central (Ill.) (Eagle Invitational), No. 5 Williams (James Early Invitational) and No. 8 NYU (Metropolitan Championships) are the remaining teams in action.
No other women’s races feature top-35 match-ups. No. 1 Johns Hopkins (Captain Chris Invitational), No. 2 Wartburg (Dan Huston Invitational), No. 5 Williams (James Early Invitational), No. 6 Chicago (UW-Parkside Lucian Rosa Invitational) and No. 8 Calvin (Michigan State-Wide Intercollegiate) are the other women’s top-10 teams in action this weekend.
Division III held its Pre-National Meet last weekend and Division I’s is slated for next weekend, and the NAIA is set to host its own this Saturday at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kansas — site of the NAIA National Championships on November 23.
Nine of the top-25 women’s teams and eight of the nationally ranked men’s squads will be in action.
|3. Aquinas (Mich.)|
|4. Shawnee State|
|8. Lewis-Clark State|
|12. Concordia (Neb.)|
|13. Oklahoma Baptist|
|21. Southwestern (Kan.)|
|22. Indiana Tech|
The men’s race features the top match-ups in terms of highest ranking teams. Headlining the field is No. 3 Aquinas (Mich.), which took down a host of Division II and III squads to take the non-DI title at the National Catholic Cross Country Invitational in late September.
Right behind Aquinas in the national poll is Shawnee State at No. 4. The Bears became the first top-five team to make a move in the poll this season, jumping up one spot from No. 5 following a seventh-place team showing at the All-Ohio Championships — fourth among non-DI programs and first among NAIA squads.
Rounding out the top-10 representation is No. 8 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho). Other ranked teams include No. 12 Concordia (Neb.), No. 13 Oklahoma Baptist, No. 21 Southwestern (Kan.), No. 22 Indiana Tech, and No. 24 Dordt.
|10. Lewis-Clark State|
|15. Oklahoma Baptist|
|19. Columbia (Mo.)|
|20. Aquinas (Mich.)|
|22. Indiana Tech|
|24. Shawnee State|
|25. Indiana Wesleyan|
Dordt is the headliner in the women’s race as the top-ranked team in the field at No. 9. After a week off, the Defenders dropped one spot in the rankings. Two weekends ago Dordt finished 11th out of 33 as a team in the Maroon II race at the Roy Griak Invitational, second among NAIA teams to No. 6 Olivet Nazarene.
Lewis-Clark’s women were the biggest victor in Wednesday’s NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, jumping seven spots to No. 10. Two weeks ago the Warriors were the top NAIA team at the Erik Anderson Invitational and have been in the NAIA national poll for a record 119 consecutive editions.
Also competing are No. 15 Oklahoma Baptist, No. 18 Doane, No. 19 Columbia (Mo.), No. 20 Aquinas (Mich.) No. 22 Indiana Tech, No. 24 Shawnee State and No. 25 Indiana Wesleyan.
Pre-Nationals isn’t the only race with national implications taking place this weekend.
The men of No. 15 Northwest Christian and No. 19 Oregon Tech will go head-to-head in a dual, while another top-25 men’s match-up will take place as No. 17 Master’s College takes on No. 22 Vanguard at the Vanguard Invitational.
Both top squads will be in action this weekend as No. 1 defending men’s champ St. Francis (Ill.) will toe the line against No. 1 North Central (Ill.) of Division III, while women’s defending champ No. 1 British Columbia will face Canadian foe No. 7 Simon Fraser of Division II.
As the top ranked women’s team in each edition of the Top 25 Poll this year, British Columbia is trying to become just the third program since 1999 to remain No. 1 from wire-to-wire en route to a title. The others? Cal State San Marcos in 2011 and former member Simon Fraser, which accomplished the feat in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 and has the most all-time No. 1 rankings with 40.
Conference championships season begins for Division II in a little over two weeks — not this coming weekend or the next — and as such teams are starting to wind down their regular season schedule. The result is a limited number of top-25 match-ups this weekend, the most promising of which are the UC San Diego Triton Classic (men) and the UW-Parkside Lucian Rose Invitational (women).
UC San Diego Triton Classic
Headlining a relatively quiet weekend in Division II is Saturday’s UC San Diego Triton Classic, which will play host to three ranked men’s teams in addition to No. 6 Chico State’s women.
The No. 5 Chico State men are the top team in their race, up against the host No. 18 UC San Diego and No. 19 Cal Poly Pomona.
Last time out for the No. 5 Wildcats was an unofficial third-place team finish at the Stanford Invitational, led by sixth-place finisher Isaac Chavez among the mostly Division I field.
CCAA conference rivals UC San Diego and Cal Poly Pomona are also battling for positioning in the West Region rankings, as they are third and fourth, respectively, behind Chico State at No. 1. UC San Diego is most recently coming off a fifth-place team showing at Roy Griak in the Maroon II race behind 24th-place finisher Tanner Collins, while Cal Poly Pomona took the team title at the Pomona Pitzer Invitational this past weekend behind the Carrell brothers — John and Ryan — in first and third, respectively.
UW-Parkside Lucian Rose Invitational
Three top-25 women’s teams are the headliner at UW-Parkside this Saturday, where No. 11 Minnesota Duluth, No. 15 Hillsdale and No. 24 Ferris State will square off.
Minnesota Duluth was the team runner-up in the Maroon II race at Roy Griak two weekends ago behind three top-12 individual finishers, including fourth-place finisher Breanna Colbenson. The Bulldogs are looking to break into the national top 10 for the first time since week one of the 2011 season.
No. 15 Hillsdale is coming off an eighth-place showing in the Gold race at Notre Dame this past weekend behind top finisher Emily Oren in 39th and 43rd finisher Julia Bos.
Also claiming a Bulldog as a mascot, No. 24 Ferris State broke back into the top-25 this week for the first time in three editions of the poll after a seventh-place team finish among non-Division I teams in the top Gold race. Samantha Johnson led the way with a 14th-place overall finish, while Anna Rudd was 45th overall.
No. 1 Grand Valley State (Jayhawk Invitational), No. 2 Adams State (Fort Hayes State Tiger Open), No. 7 Simon Fraser (Western Washington Invitational), and No. 9 Edinboro (Mercyhurst/Ganon Invitational) are the remaining top-10 women’s teams in action.
On the men’s side, No. 1 Adams State (Fort Hayes State), No. 2 Western State (W Mountain Race), No. 3 GVSU (Jayhawk Invitational). No. 9 Edinboro (Mercyhurst/Ganon) and No. 10 Missouri Southern (Jackling Jocks Invitational) will be competing this weekend.
Outside the top 10, reigning Division II men’s National Athlete of the Week Mike Biwott of No. 25 American International is the defending champion at the New England Cross Country Championships, where his squad is scheduled to compete this weekend against No. 23 Stonehill. Should Biwott claim the title, it would mark the fifth consecutive season an AIC runner has taken the individual crown — Biwott last season and former teammate Glarius Rop the previous three.
After two big weekends of Division I cross country meets in a row, most of the country’s top runners are taking the weekend off from competition.
The respite won’t last long, as two giant meets loom large on the horizon — Division I Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., the site of the NCAA Championships; and the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison.
Every single ranked team in Division I, both men and women, will be active in either Terre Haute or Madison next weekend. There will be no updated National Coaches Polls next week.
The men’s Pre-Nationals race will feature 12 ranked teams including three of the top four team among five top-10 teams; while Wisconsin will host the remaining 18 ranked teams and other top five squads. The presence of unranked Arizona at Wisconsin could also mean the debut of The Bowerman Finalist Lawi Lalang, the 2011 individual NCAA champion, while unranked Texas Tech — with defending NCAA XC champ Kennedy Kithuka — is slated for Pre-Nationals. Check out the full lists below:
Ranked Men’s Teams
|1. Oklahoma State|
|15. Colorado State|
|19. Boise State|
RV. Florida State
RV. Virginia Tech
* Split between Pre-Nats & Wisconsin
Ranked Men’s Teams
Wisconsin adidas Invitational
|3. Northern Arizona|
|13. North Carolina|
|16. Eastern Kentucky|
|25. New Mexico|
|28. Notre Dame|
|30. Arizona State|
RV. Air Force
RV. Michigan State
On the women’s side, ranked teams will be split right down the middle with 15 ranked teams at both Pre-Nats and Wisconsin. Top-ranked Providence will lead six top-10 teams at Wisconsin, while No. 2 Florida State grapples with three other top-10 squads, including defending champion No. 6 Oregon and 2011 champ Georgetown. The full breakdown:
Ranked Women’s Teams
|2. Florida State|
|19. Oklahoma State|
|21. William and Mary|
|24. Boston College|
|27. Penn State|
|RV. West Virginia
RV. Boise State
Ranked Women’s Teams
Wisconsin adidas Invitational
|7. New Mexico|
|9. Michigan State|
|10. San Francisco|
|28. Iowa State|
|30. Notre Dame|
Check back next week for a full preview of what is sure to be a pivotal weekend in the rankings and for potential at-large consideration.