The Warm-Up Lap: Bids to Division II Nationals on the Line This Weekend
NEW ORLEANS – Just one stage of the season stands between today and the Division II NCAA Championships on November 23: regional championships, and they are all this weekend.
Berths into the big dance in Spokane, Wash., are on the line, and, unlike in the other two divisions where teams can qualify to NCAAs with at-large bids, they must be earned at regionals. Each region has a set number of qualifying berths based on the performances of its teams at the previous year’s NCAA Championships.
That means no at-large slots into the championships. No at-large slots means no leeway for teams to underperform at regionals.
No second chances. Qualify on the course or don’t qualify at all.
The stakes are impressive — especially raised on the men’s side by the switch to the 10K distance for the final two meets; the match-ups even more so in many regions across the country.
Consider the South Central Region, where the six auto qualifying spots in both the men’s and women’s competition barely contain all the nationally ranked teams. Or the Midwest, where the four slotted berths aren’t enough for all of its ranked squads.
At-large bids for individuals are also at stake for those runners who don’t qualify as a member of a team. At minimum, 24 men and 24 women will also get a ticket to Spokane for being among the top three individuals from their region who are not part of a qualifying team. Additionally, all individuals who finish within their region’s top five places will advance to the national championships.
The Warm-Up Lap delves into these meets and more as the national championships guest list is finalized this weekend.
This week is also an important meet in the NAIA with conference championships on the line in most areas of the country and national championships for the NJCAA. Find more information on those respective divisions here and here.
Regional Previews (Click A Region to View Its Preview)
Saturday, November 9 | Meet Home | Canyon, Texas (Host: West Texas A&M)
Nowhere in the nation will you find more top-10 squads this weekend than at Nance Ranch in Canyon, Texas, at the South Central Regional Championships on Saturday. With six bids into NCAAs on the line in both the men’s and women’s races, there’s only barely enough for the 11 combined ranked teams between the two genders.
Six ranked men’s teams will duel for the six spots, while five ranked women’s teams and another receiving votes nationally square off in the women’s contest.
A bitter rivalry between No. 1 Western State and No. 2 defending national/regional champion Adams State headlines a men’s race also featuring RMAC rivals in No. 4 Colorado Mines, No. 17 New Mexico Highlands and No. 18 Metro State and another top-10 challenger in No. 10 West Texas A&M.
Just two weekends ago, Western State dethroned Adams State as the top team in the land for just the second time since 2009 when the Mountaineers took down the Grizzlies for the RMAC title behind individual champion and National Athlete of the Week Vegard Olstad.
Seven runners in the top 10 bolstered WSCU to the title, with two of the remaining top-10 finishers belonging to Adams State in RMAC runner-up and defending South Central champion Kevin Batt — a former National Athlete of the Week himself — and Tabor Stevens. Batt and Stevens ran without the assistance of three of its All-Americans from a year ago, who could suit up for the Grizzlies in Canyon.
Colorado Mines, the national runner-up from a year ago, will look to hop back into the national race after a third-place showing at RMACs two weekends ago behind fifth-place finisher Derek Alcorn.
Looking to crash the RMAC party will be West Texas A&M, which handily won its Lone Star Conference title with 22 points behind individual champ Dylan Boss and four of the top eight finishers.
A similar duel between Adams State and Western State will take place in the women’s competition as the RMAC champion and defending South Central champion No. 2 Grizzlies and No. 3 Mountaineers square off.
Individual RMAC champion Lauren Martin led three top-five finishers for Adams State to an eight-point edge over Western State, 37-45, a fortnight ago. The two squads were well-matched, as there were no more than four positions between each of their respective top-seven finishers, and only one or two spots separating four of those spots.
No. 7 Metro State, with former National Athlete of the Week and RMAC individual runner-up Janelle Lincks, and No. 9 UC-Colorado Springs — themselves separated by just five points at the RMAC Championships, 105-110, in third and fourth — will get another shot at taking down the top two teams. Also competing is Lone Star Conference champion No. 17 West Texas A&M.
Saturday, November 9 | Meet Home | Kenosha, Wis. (Host: UW-Parkside)
Unlike in the South Central Region, the Midwest Region’s allotted eight national championships bids are insufficient to cover the 14 teams between men and women that are either ranked or receiving votes nationally.
The defending women’s national champion and 12-time Midwest Region champion No. 1 Grand Valley State heads a group of eight teams appearing in the national poll battling for just four tickets to the NCAA Championships.
In the men’s section, 11-time defending champion No. 3 GVSU leads five nationally ranked teams and another receiving votes that will duke it out for four bids.
Behind defending regional champ Allyson Winchester, GVSU’s women will take on many of the teams they defeated at the GLIAC Championships, including No. 13 Saginaw Valley State, No/ 15 Malone, No. 19 Hillsdale and Northern Michigan, which is receiving votes.
Behind runner-up Winchester and third-place Jessica Janecke, the Lakers put their top seven runners within the top 20 individual finishers at GLIACs, while only SVSU and Malone managed three each.
Individually, Winchester and the Lakers will have to worry about individual GLIAC Champ Samantha Johnson of Ferris State, who dethroned Winchester as the conference champ just two weeks ago with a 12-second win.
Not only will the Lakers have to contend with their GLIAC foes, but also the top teams from the GLVC, led by No. 10 Southern Indiana. The Screaming Eagles took their third league title in a row behind individual runner-up Erika Wilson and five runners in the top 18.
Along with Southern Indiana, the GLVC will bring No. 25 UW-Parkside and Lewis, which is receiving votes nationally.
As the regional rankings currently stand, No. 1 GVSU, No. 10 Southern Indiana, No. 13 SVSU and No. 15 Malone would earn the four bids to nationals, leaving No. 19 Hillsdale, No. 25 UW-Parkside and vote-receiving Lewis and Northern Michigan on the outside looking in.
Competition for the national bids in the men’s race will be nearly as fierce with six teams in the poll, headed by GLIAC Champion No. 3 Grand Valley State and GLVC Champion No. 7 Southern Indiana.
The Lakers of GVSU and individual champ Brent Showerman dominated the GLIAC meet with six of the top nine finishers en route to a team score of 21 to runner-up No. 15 Malone’s 92.
Southern Indiana scored a victory nearly as decisive at the GLVC Championships, with former National Athlete of the Week Johnnie Guy earning the individual title to lead seven top-15 finishers for a team score of 24 to Lewis’ 88 points.
The two team met way back in mid-September at the Michigan State Spartan Invitational, where Guy took the individual win but GVSU took the unofficial team title over MSU and Southern Indiana.
Joining the battle between the two conference champions is another in No. 20 Cedarville, the GMAC conference champion. Defending region champ Matt Brooker took the individual title to lead the Yellow Jackets to a perfect team score of 15, with seven runners finishing within the top 10.
The No. 20 Yellow Jackets are fourth in the latest region rankings following No. 3 GVSU, No. 7 Southern Indiana and No. 15 Malone. With just those four bids to NCAAs, Cedarville is on the right side of the bubble while No. 24 Ashland and Hillsdale, receiving votes nationally, are looking in from the other side.
Five auto bids into the championships are on the line in both the men’s and women’s races in the West Region, with perhaps the best three-way top-10 battle slated for the women’s race and a pair of top-10 squads in the men’s contest.
No. 4 Alaska Anchorage, No. 5 Chico State and No. 6 Simon Fraser headline the women’s race, while No. 4 Chico State and No. 9 Alaska Anchorage are the top-ranked teams in the men’s race.
Led by defending region champion, GNAC champion and returning national runner-up Susan Tanui, No. 4 Alaska Anchorage’s women have cruised in 2013 to an undefeated season. With individual winner Tanui and two other top-four finishers at the GNAC Championships, the Seawolves defeated No. 6 Simon Fraser, 36-49.
After winning the region three years in a row before losing it to Chico State last year, UAA will look to regain its position as the region’s top qualifier in the national championship.
No. 5 Chico State, on the other hand, will try to continue its own streak. Individual CCAA champion Ayla Granados led the Wildcats to a strong 29-77 league title over No. 24 Cal State Stanislaus. Granados was the top finisher among four Chico State runners in the top 10.
Chico State and Simon Fraser have met twice this season, the first matchup going in favor of Simon Fraser at the UW Sundodger Invitational and the second to Chico State at the Stanford Invitational.
Simon Fraser will get another shot at both Chico State and Alaska Anchorage at this region meet. The Clan was most recently runner-up to UAA led by fifth-place finisher Lindsey Butterworth and seven top-25 finishers — the most of any team at the meet.
Cal State Stanislaus is the final nationally ranked team in the region at No. 24, while Cal Poly Pomona is ranked fifth in the region. Should the regional rankings hold, Cal Poly Pomona would edge UC San Diego and Seattle Pacific for the final spot.
The roles are reversed in the men’s race where No. 4 Chico State is the top-ranked squad to No. 9 Alaska Anchorage.
Defending region champion Chico State easily took the CCAA title with a perfect score of 15 behind individual winner Aaron Thomas and the top six finishers, all of whom crossed the line within three seconds of one another. Isaac Chavez has been the top runner for most of the season, with a runner-up finish at the Washington Sundodger Invitational and sixth at Stanford.
Before Chico State took the region last season, it had belonged to Alaska Anchorage the previous two. Despite individual champion Isaac Kangogo leading the top three individual finishers, the Seawolves were narrow victors at the GNAC Championships ahead of No. 16 Western Washington, 32-35.
While UAA had the advantage in terms of the most top-finishers, Western Washington was boosted to its runner-up finish by seven of the top 13 finishers, including fourth-placer Chip Jackson. It will hope to use that same depth to again compete with Chico State and Alaska Anchorage.
No. 21 Cal Poly Pomona and UC San Diego, which is receiving votes nationally, are the fourth- and fifth ranked teams in the region, leaving Cal Baptist — and reigning National Athlete of the Week Bryton Reim — and San Francisco State as the first two teams on the bubble.
Augustana (S.D.)’s men’s and women’s programs swept the Central Region in 2012 in the first season since perennial national powers Adams State and Western State relocated to the Mountain Region, though only one of the Vikings’ squads enters as the top-ranked teams in the region.
That team is Augustana’s men, who are ranked No. 6 nationally. The Vikings, behind two-time defending NSIC champ Paul Yak and nine top-15 finishers, easily won the NSIC team crown over no. 23 Sioux Falls. Yak also led the Vikings to a team title at the Roy Griak Invitational Maroon II race with a runner-up finish over runner-up UW-La Crosse and third-place No. 11 Central Missouri, 54-105-131, while teammate Adam Braun finished third.
Central Missouri has come into its own since that meet, jumping to No. 11 after winning the MIAA title by just one point over No. 13 Missouri Southern, 56-57. Laban Sialo finished runner-up in that race and Tyler Stuber third to lead the Mules. The pair finished fifth and seventh at Griak.
The only collegian who defeated these two teams’ top-twos at Griak was individual winner Adam Volkert of Pittsburg State, who will try to lead his team — ranked ninth in the region — into one of the five automatic bids to NCAAs.
After falling by just one point to Central Missouri, former National Athlete of the Week Eric Schott and Missouri Southern will look for a measure of redemption over the Mules.
No. 23 Sioux Falls and Southwest Baptist, which is receiving votes nationally, are the region’s fourth- and fifth-ranked teams, leaving national vote-earning Nebraska-Kearney and GAC Champion Harding just outside the championships bids.
Augustana’s women’s team was the top-ranked team in the region — which has been allotted four NCAA bids — for much of the season, led by two-time National Athlete of the Week and defending region champion Runa Falch, but a slip-up at the NSIC Championships changed that. The Vikings were runners-up to No. 8 Minnesota Duluth, 50-67.
A match-up between the two teams at the Roy Griak went much the opposite way, as Falch took the title and the Vikings defeated the Bulldogs, 82-119.
Minnesota-Duluth put four in the top 10, led by Samantha Rivard and Hannah Olson in fourth and fifth, while Falch trailed in 14th-place.
Two nationally ranked teams round out the top four of the region — and the projected bids — in MIAA Champion No. 17 Southwest Baptist and No. 20 Winona State, while Nebraska-Kearney and U-Mary, with NSIC Champion and former National Athlete of the Week Jennifer Agnew, are the fifth and sixth teams.
Just like the Pittsburg State men, the Gorilla women also bring an individual champion to the meet in Jessica Macy. Her team is ranked seventh in the region.
Saturday, November 9 | Meet Home | Lock Haven, Pa. (Host: Lock Haven)
Three spots are up for grabs in the Atlantic Region men’s race, and four in the women’s race. On the men’s side, defending regional champion No. 8 Lock Haven is the only team outside of No. 3 Grand Valley State with an active streak of multiple regional championships.
Likewise, Lock Haven’s Alex Monroe is the only active two-time defending individual regional champion in the nation. He most recently took his third straight PSAC title in leading the Bald Eagles to the team title over No. 14 Edinboro, 37-72.
Edinboro, led by sixth-place PSAC finisher Matt Link, will get another shot at Lock Haven in the regional meet.
Just behind Edinboro in third at the PSAC meet and in the national poll is No. 19 Shippensburg, which sits third in the region ranking and occupies, on paper, the final auto bid.
California (Pa.) and Slippery Rock are the next two teams in the rankings.
On the women’s side, No. 16 Shippensburg is the five-time defending regional champion — the third longest active streak behind No. 1 GVSU (12) and No. 23 Tampa (6). But past results don’t necessarily dictate future results, as the Raiders’ streak of five PSAC titles was snapped just two weeks ago with a third-place finish in that meet.
Instead, No. 11 Mansfield enters as the top-ranked team in the region and the PSAC champion, led by a meet-best three top-10 finishers at the PSAC Championships. Jessica Scordino finished third to lead the Mountaineers.
No. 14 Edinboro is the second-ranked team in the region after finishing runner-up at the PSAC meet, 65-77, led by individual runner-up Sarah Krolick, while Shippensburg was third with 103 points and No. 20 Indiana (Pa.) was fourth. All of those teams are in position, per the most recent regional rankings, to earn the four bids, while Seton Hill — receiving votes nationally — and Slippery Rock are the next two in line.
Sunday, November 10 | Meet Home
Boston, Mass.. (Host: Stonehill)
Three bids to NCAAs are at stake in both the men’s and women’s races in the East Region.
No. 22 Stonehill’s men, the Northeast-10 champions, are the top-ranked team in the region, just ahead of No. 25 Franklin Pierce and national vote-earner American International.
However, standing between AIC — featuring three-time National Athlete of the Week Mike Biwott — and that third spot is Wilmington (Del.), the CACC champion.
In the women’s competition, Northeast-10 champion No. 22 Stonehill is the lone ranked team in the field.
Per the regional rankings, NE-10 foes Bentley and Merrimack are the next two in line to earn the NCAA bids, while Southern New Hampshire and Saint Rose are the next two in the rankings after that.
Saturday, November 9 | Meet Home
Tampa, Fla. (Host: Tampa)
The South is the home to the second-longest regional championship streak in the country, as the No. 23 Tampa women are set to compete for their seventh title in a row. Tampa’s Kelly Hagan is the defending regional champ, with Chantelle Blundell the top finisher at the Sunshine Conference Championships in third.
National vote receiving Alabama-Huntsville, the Gulf South champion, is led by individual conference champion Vicky Winslow, while Nova Southeastern and two-time individual Sunshine Conference winner Alexandria Palm.
West Florida and Saint Leo are next in line, should the rankings hold, for the three bids.
A pair of national-vote-getters in Florida Southern and Alabama-Huntsville — with defending regional champion Blaise Binns — are the top two teams in the men’s competition, with Saint Leo third in the region rankings.
West Florida and Nova Southeastern are the next two teams in the rankings.
Columbus State’s men and women are the defending champions in the Southeast Region, but neither are in position to claim one of the region’s three automatic bids this time around. The men are on the very edge of the bubble at fourth in the regional rankings, while the women are fifth.
Instead, No. 12 Mount Olive enters as the men’s favorite. Behind the Conference Carolinas champions are a pair of national vote receiving teams in Peach Belt champion GRU Augusta and King.
On the women’s side, Wingate may be the first team out of the National Coaches Poll, but it is the first team in the regional rankings as the SAC champion. Peach Belt champion Flagler and Conference Carolina champion King are next in the rankings as the top three teams. Just outside the top three are Queens (N.C.) — which claimed two titles in a row before Columbus State — and the aforementioned Columbus State.