Defending Champ St. Olaf Receives First-Ever No. 1 Ranking in Preseason DIII Poll

By Dennis Young, USTFCCCA

August 27, 2014   

NEW ORLEANS—The preseason NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country National Coaches Poll is out, and the top is strikingly similar to last year’s national championship results: St. Olaf is No. 1 by a hair over No. 2 North Central (Ill.)

NCAA Division III National Coaches Poll Top 5 – Men

1)St. Olaf 2)North Central (Ill.) 3)Williams 4)UW-Eau Claire 5)Central (Iowa)
St. Olaf North Central (Ill.) Williams UW-Eau Claire Central (Iowa)
View Complete Men’s National Coaches Poll

In the poll released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), the defending champion Oles received five first-place votes to the Cardinals’ three. Last year was Olaf’s first title, and this is its first-ever No. 1 ranking.

After Olaf and NCC, No. 3 Williams, No. 4 UW-Eau Claire, and No. 5 Central (Iowa) round out the top five.

The National Coaches Poll for Division III women was also released Wednesday.

National Coaches Poll PDFs: Top 35 Summary | Week-by-Week 2014 | Week-by-Week All-Time
Regional Rankings PDF: Regional Summary

Division III XC Polls/Rankings Central

With six of their seven runners from last year’s champions returning, the biggest question for St. Olaf will be if it can handle the shift from underdog to target.  As recently as May, though, Paul Escher, Grant Wintheiser, and Jake Campbell said that they still feel like underdogs.

Last year, the Oles were ranked fifteenth in the first poll; that’s the second lowest initial ranking for an eventual national champion in the 61 iterations—for both sexes and all three divisions—of preseason polls in the USTFCCCA archives.

They were just the fourth national champion in NCAA history to be ranked outside of the top ten in August, and in the first men’s champ in DIII polling to be ranked outside of the preseason top four.  Only six DIII schools  have two men’s titles; the last to join that club was Calvin in 2003. 

North Central has been ranked first or second in 48 of the last 50 polls, and it hasn’t finished out of the top two nationally since 2007. What more is there to say? The Cardinals graduate their top three athletes from last year’s runner-ups, but head coach Al Carius has spent the last 48 years building a dynasty in Naperville that shows no sign of slowing down. When Carius and NCC won their first national title in 1975, 13 of the 35 ranked teams’ head coaches weren’t born yet.

Coming in at No. 3 is Williams.  The Ephs return five of their top six from last year’s third-place squad, and look for their eighth podium finish in the last two decades.

After only qualifying for nationals twice from 1993 to 2008, No. 4 UW-Eau Claire is experiencing a serious resurgence under coach Dan Schwamberger.  Though they’ve won the WIAC just once in its 48-year history, the Blugolds have finished second in the nation’s best conference the last two years.  They’ve also recruited a 9:06 high schooler and added two Division I transfers to their four of top seven returning.

Like Eau Claire, No. 5 Central (Iowa) is in the midst of a rapid ascent to the top of the national scene. Two years ago in 2012 was the first year that the Dutch had a team at nationals since 1980; they were 12th then, sixth last fall, and are now tipped for the highest finish in school history.

No. 6 MIT makes the biggest jump from last year’s national results to this summer’s poll, leaping 18 spots from their 24th place finish.

Before last Halloween, No. 7 Johns Hopkins had never been ranked in the top fifteen.  Then, the Blue Jays dominated the Centennial Conference and Mideast Region championships, skyrocketing from 32nd to eighth in a single poll week.  Their No. 7 slot is the highest in school history after last fall’s 11th place finish.

No. 8 UW-La Crosse is the second WIAC and third Midwest team in the poll.  The Eagles have stood on the last two national podiums (an honor for the top four teams) and won seven of the last 10 WIAC titles, including the last two.

Yet another top ten squad from that one tough state: No. 9 UW-Platteville enters the poll after not making it past regionals last fall.  Track All-American Ian LaMere’s return from injury was surely a major factor in the pollsters’ eyes.

Along with North Central, preseason No. 10 Washington (Mo.) and No. 11 Haverford are the only teams to have finished in the top ten each of the last five years. 

Other notes:

  • Welcome to the national stage, No. 16 Colby, No. 30 RPI, and UW-Stout and Swarthmore, which are tied for No. 31.  Last year was the first time Colby ever qualified for nationals, and this is their first preseason rank.  RPI and Swat have never qualified, and Stout’s lone appearance at nats was in 1981.
  • The latter three plus historic stalwarts UW-Platteville, No. 22 Amherst, No. 24 Occidental, No. 29 Wheaton (Ill.) and No. 34 St. Thomas (Minn.) join the poll after not making NCAAs last November.
  • They’re replacing now-unranked Luther, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, NYU, Manchester, and Emory.
  • There’s heavy parity between the conferences.  Only the consensus three best conferences—the NESCAC (6), WIAC (5) and Centennial (4)—have four or more ranked teams.  The UAA (2), though, hasn’t sent less than three teams to nationals since 2005.

The NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be held November 23 in Mason, Ohio.

USTFCCCA NCAA Division III

Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll

2014 Preseason — August 27

next poll: September 17
Rank Institution (FPV) Points Region Conference Head Coach (Yr*)
2013 FINAL
1 St. Olaf (5) 277 Central MIAC Phil Lundin (7th)
1
2 North Central (Ill.) (3) 275 Midwest CCIW Al Carius (49th)
2
3 Williams 259 New England NESCAC Pete Farwell (36th)
5
4 UW-Eau Claire 250 Midwest WIAC Dan Schwamberger (8th)
9
5 Central (Iowa) 249 Central IIAC Joe Dunham (7th)
6
6 MIT 234 New England NEWMAC Halston Taylor (33rd)
24
7 Johns Hopkins 224 Mideast Centennial Bobby Van Allen (16th)
11
8 UW-La Crosse 220 Midwest WIAC Derek Stanley (3rd)
3
9 UW-Platteville 216 Midwest WIAC Tom Antczak (22nd)
NR
10 Washington (Mo.) 208 Midwest UAA Jeff Stiles (14th)
4
11 Haverford 203 Mideast Centennial Tom Donnelly (40th)
10
12 Middlebury 202 New England NESCAC Nicole Wilkerson (4th)
7
13 SUNY Geneseo 180 Atlantic SUNYAC Mike Woods (23rd)
15
14 Loras 170 Central IIAC Bob Schultz (10th)
26
15 Dickinson 157 Mideast Centennial Don Nichter (25th)
8
16 Colby 152 New England NESCAC Jared Beers (9th)
22
16 Pomona-Pitzer 152 West SCIAC Tony Boston (7th)
23
18 Wabash 139 Great Lakes NCAC Roger Busch (9th)
21
19 SUNY Cortland 129 Atlantic SUNYAC Steve Patrick (7th)
13
20 Allegheny (Pa.) 122 Mideast NCAC Brent Wilkerson (5th)
18
21 Chicago 117 Midwest UAA Chris Hall (14th)
28
22 Amherst 105 New England NESCAC Ned Nedeau (18th)
NR
23 Calvin 96 Great Lakes MIAA Brian Diemer (29th)
27
24 Occidental 93 West SCIAC Robert Bartlett (10th)
NR
25 St. Lawrence 89 Atlantic Liberty League John Newman (14th)
29
26 Carleton 81 Central MIAC Dave Ricks (8th)
16
27 Tufts 80 New England NESCAC Ethan Barron (10th)
17
28 UW-Oshkosh 64 Midwest WIAC Eamon McKenna (3rd)
12
29 Wheaton (Ill.) 62 Midwest CCIW Scott Bradley (13th)
NR
30 RPI 39 Atlantic Liberty League John Lynch (4th)
NR
31 Swarthmore 36 Mideast Centennial Peter Carroll (15th)
NR
31 UW-Stout 36 Midwest WIAC Matt Schauf (8th)
NR
33 Bridgewater (Va.) 35 South/Southeast ODAC Brian Flynn (5th)
31
34 St. Thomas (Minn.) 20 Central MIAC Pete Wareham (22nd)
NR
34 Bates 20 New England NESCAC Al Fereshetian (20th)
25
Others Receiving Votes: Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 15, Carnegie Mellon 13, Augustana (Ill.) 11, NYU 4, Mount Union 3, UW-Stevens Point 2, Willamette 1
(* year as head coach of that team in men’s cross country, officially NCAA-recognized coach listed)