The Warm-Up Lap: More than Football This Weekend – Oregon vs. MSU on the XC Trails

The Warm-Up Lap: More than Football This Weekend – Oregon vs. MSU on the XC Trails

NEW ORLEANS – So the No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 Michigan State football teams are squaring off on the gridiron in Eugene, Oregon, this Saturday?

We see your match-up, college football, and raise you the No. 2 Ducks’ and No. 6 Spartans’ women’s cross country teams at the third annual Bill Dellinger Invitational in Eugene later today.

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Plus we get the No. 3 Ducks men – led by the defending national champ and now former frosh phenom Edward Cheserek – and the Michigan state men, who are receiving votes nationally in the Coaches Poll.

Both sports’ match-ups between the Ducks and Spartans are early-season affairs between marquee programs, but – as excited as cross country fans are over the propsects of this showdown – underlying the two is a key difference in football’s favor: the stakes.

Whichever football team wins will put itself in better position to qualify for college football’s new playoff system. The loser will find itself a big step behind in that goal. Either way, the drama will be palpable and the stakes very real.

Not so for this cross country duel. While the women’s team match-up between Maggie Schmaedick’s and Megan Patrignelli’s Ducks and Leah O’Connor’s and Sara Kroll’s Spartans is, on paper, by far the best showdown of the young cross country season, neither team’s potential NCAA Championships at-large qualification bid résumés will be either helped or harmed by the final outcome.

Performances in Division I begin counting for at-large consideration  on September 26.

This week’s dichotomy follows just seven days after the Division I football and cross country seasons simultaneously opened last weekend. Football saw its reigning champion and preseason No. 1 Florida State not just take on but travel to another top-30 team in Oklahoma State in a make-or-break kind of game – and just narrowly avoid being broken.

Cross country? It’s men’s and women’s preseason favorites both kicked off their seasons with what amounted to intrasquad time trials. Neither right nor wrong, but different than football — and certainly just a touch less dramatic.

Apples and oranges between two inherently different sports? Of course, but one can still appreciate the stark difference and cross country fans can still relish the thought of having a complete regular season filled with meaningful, high-stakes match-ups.

That’s not to say great races in Division I don’t or can’t happen before that late-September milestone. The Spartans making the 2,000+ mile trip to Eugene should be proof of that. This weekend’s women’s showdown, rather than a controlled tempo as both teams dance around one another for 6K, could be a chance for two great teams to really go at one another with nothing to lose.

For Cheserek, it could be a chance to assert his dominance much like last year’s defending champ Kennedy Kithuka of Texas Tech did early in 2013. It could be a chance for an up-and-coming All-American like Caleb Rhynard of Michigan State to challenge alpha Ducks Cheserek and Eric Jenkins, or for his team to put up a valiant effort in order to bust through into the next edition of National Coaches Poll top 30.

After all, that would only be in the right spirit for a race held on a venue honoring one of American distance running’s most notoriously and historically bold and daring runners: Pre’s Trail.

What else is going on this weekend in cross country?

Outside of Michigan State and Oregon, nationally ranked Division I teams are keeping to themselves this weekend. The No. 1 Colorado men are sending a contingent to compete at No. 30 Colorado State before taking a month off from competition leading up to their Oct. 4 Rocky Mountain Shootout.

In men’s top-10 action, No. 2 Northern Arizona opens up its season at home with the George Kyte Invitational, No. 6 Indiana hosts the Indiana Open, No. 7 Portland duals with Illinois in the state of Washington, No. 8 Syracuse will send men to Colgate’s Harry Lang Invitational and No. 9 BYU heads to the Utah Open.

Rounding out the top-10 action for the women are No. 7 Arkansas with a contingent at the adidas/UC Irvine Invitational and No. 8 Colorado at Colorado State.

The rest of the top-30 schedule for this weekend is below.

Men’s Top 30 – DI

Team Meet
1. Colorado Colorado State Open
2. Northern Arizona George Kyte Invitational
3. Oregon Bill Dellinger Invitational
6. Indiana Indiana Open (cross country)
7. Portland DUAL: Illinois-Portland
8. Syracuse Harry Lang Invitational
9. BYU Utah Open
11. Wisconsin Badger Opener
17. New Mexico Lobo Invitational (cross country)
30. Colorado State Colorado State Open

Women’s Top 30 – DI

Team Meet
2. Oregon Bill Dellinger Invitational
6. Michigan State Bill Dellinger Invitational
7. Arkansas adidas/UC Irvine Invitational
8. Colorado Colorado State Open
11. New Mexico Lobo Invitational (cross country)
13. Syracuse Harry Lang Invitational
16. Wisconsin Badger Opener
17. Boston College Bryant Nassaney Invitational
21. Virginia Tech Hokie Invitational (cross country)
25. Minnesota Oz Memorial Run
28. Weber State Utah Open
29. Penn State Dolan Duals
30. Arizona State George Kyte Invitational

 

This is Division II’s opening weekend, and most of the top-25 will be hitting the trails. Two-time defending men’s champ No. 1 Adams State will host its Joe Vigil Open, while RMAC rivals No. 3 Western State, No. 5 Colorado Mines and No. 10 Metro State will compete at Colorado State.

No. 6 Southern Indiana opens up with its Stegemoller Classic, No. 7 Augustana (S.D.) hosts the Augie Twilight against No. 17 Sioux Falls, No. 8 Alaska Anchorage will be at the Big Wave Invite in Hawaii, and No. 9 Shippensburg hosts its Galen E. Piper Alumni Open.

For the women, No. 2 Adams State is at home against No. 12 West Texas A&M, No. 3 Western State and No. 7 Metro State are at Colorado State, No. 6 Augustana (S.D.) is at  home, and No. 10 Winona State starts on the road at Saint Mary’s (Minn.).

The rest of the top-25 schedule for this weekend is below.

Men’s Top 25 – DII

Team Meet
1. Adams State Joe I. Vigil Open
3. Western State Colorado State Open
5. Colorado Mines Colorado State Open
6. Southern Indiana Stegemoller Classic
7. Augustana (S.D.) Augie Twilight
8. Alaska Anchorage Big Wave Invitational
9. Shippensburg Galen Piper Alumni/Open XC Challenge
10. Metro State Colorado State Open
12. Lock Haven Dolan Duals
15. American International Trinity (Conn.) Invitational
16. Cedarville Queen City Invitational
17. Sioux Falls Augie Twilight
19. Edinboro Doug Watts Distance Gala 
21. UC San Diego Lancer Classic
25. Cal Baptist Lancer Classic

Women’s Top 25 – DII

Team Meet
2. Adams State Joe I. Vigil Open
3. Western State Colorado State Open
6. Augustana (S.D.) Augie Twilight
7. Metro State Colorado State Open
10. Winona State Saint Mary’s (Minn.) Open (cross country)
11. Cal Baptist Lancer Classic
12. West Texas A&M Joe I. Vigil Open
14. Edinboro Doug Watts Distance Gala 
20. California (Pa.) Fordham Fiasco
21. Shippensburg Galen Piper Alumni/Open XC Challenge
22. Stonehill Shacklette Invitational
24. Colorado Mines Colorado State Open
25. Malone Tommy Evans Invitational

 

Like Division I, Division III is in its second weekend of competition. Defending men’s champ No. 1 St. Olaf kicks off its season with its Alumni Race, while No. 2 North Central (Ill.) is active for the second weekend in a row at the Aurora Spartan Challenge.

No. 3 Williams and No. 12 Middlebury are getting together for a fun exhibition race at the Middlebury Co-ed Relays, while No. 5 Central (Iowa) hosts its own invitational against No. 14 Loras and No. 26 Carleton. No. 9 UW-Platteville hosts its own Alumni Invitational.

Four of the top five women’s teams in DIII are active this weekend, including No. 2 Williams and No. 3 Middlebury in that fun-run Co-ed Relay. No. 4 Chicago, with reigning National Athlete of the Week Breanna Hickey, will head to NAIA No. 4 Olivet Nazarene for the Midwest Classic, and No. 5 Oberlin is at Edinboro’s Doug Watts Invitational.

A full rundown of the Division III top-35 schedule is below.

Men’s Top 35 – DIII

Team Meet
1. St. Olaf St. Olaf Alumni Race
2. North Central (Ill.) Aurora Spartan Classic
3. Williams Middlebury Co-ed Relays
5. Central (Iowa) Central (Iowa) Invitational (cross country)
9. UW-Platteville UW-Platteville Alumni Open
11. Haverford Haverford Alumae / Alumni Open Race
12. Middlebury Middlebury Co-ed Relays
14. Loras Central (Iowa) Invitational (cross country)
15. Dickinson Galen Piper Alumni/Open XC Challenge
16. Colby DUAL: Bates-Colby
19. SUNY Cortland Oswego State Invitational
21. Chicago Midwest Classic
22. Amherst Smith College Invitational (cross country)
24. Occidental adidas/UC Irvine Invitational
25. St. Lawrence Cardinal Classic
26. Carleton Central (Iowa) Invitational (cross country)
29. Wheaton (Ill.) Aurora Spartan Classic
30. RPI Cardinal Classic
31. UW-Stout Saint Mary’s (Minn.) Open (cross country)
34. St. Thomas (Minn.) Crown Storm Invitational
34. Bates DUAL: Bates-Colby

Women’s Top 35 – DIII

Team Meet
2. Williams Middlebury Co-ed Relays
3. Middlebury Middlebury Co-ed Relays
4. Chicago Midwest Classic
5. Oberlin Doug Watts Distance Gala 
12. Dickinson Galen Piper Alumni/Open XC Challenge
13. Haverford Haverford Alumae / Alumni Open Race
14. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps DUAL: CMS-Westmont (Nationball Classic)
17. Carleton Central (Iowa) Invitational (cross country)
20. St. Lawrence Cardinal Classic
21. St. Olaf St. Olaf Alumni Race
22. Ithaca Oswego State Invitational
23. UW-Stevens Point Pointer Open (cross country)
24. Elizabethtown Galen Piper Alumni/Open XC Challenge
26. Ohio Wesleyan Ohio Wesleyan/GLCA Invitational
27. TCNJ Fordham Fiasco
30. Luther Saint Mary’s (Minn.) Open (cross country)
35. North Central (Ill.) Aurora Spartan Classic
35. Bates DUAL: Bates-Colby