Weekend DII/III XC Preview: Wisconsin is the Place to Be

Weekend DII/III XC Preview: Wisconsin is the Place to Be

NEW ORLEANS— This weekend, the hub of Division III cross country is in Wisconsin: two traditional WIAC powerhouses – UW-Oshkosh and UW-La Crosse – are hosting more than a third of nationally ranked teams

Let’s break it down.

UW-Oshkosh AAE Invitational

North Central has won five of the last six years at Lake Breeze Golf Course, with their only loss a six-point upset to Calvin in 2012.   (They avenged that defeat with a national title a month later) It’s hard to imagine the No. 1 Cardinals losing to a DIII team on Saturday, but the favorite to win the meet is clearly DII No. 2 Grand Valley State, who beat NCC by 11 at Notre Dame. 

For such an elite meet, the AAE Invitational (new sponsor this year) has an unusual dynamic: teams are allowed to enter an unlimited number of athletes.  That leads to 500 or more runners in each race, about double the amount that compete at nationals.  Huge fields typically mean crazy fast starts, as the more runners on a starting line, the greater likelihood that some of them sprint off it.

Top-35 Teams

AAE Oshkosh Men
1. North Central (Ill.) (8)
3. UW-Eau Claire
11. Wabash
13. Johns Hopkins
14. MIT
16. Washington (Mo.)
17. UW-Stout
21. UW-Oshkosh
24. Calvin
26. Chicago

This plays right into NCC’s hands.  Ask any observer of Midwest XC:  there are cat teams (those who stalk their prey) and mouse teams (those who shoot out to a lead and get eaten).  And North Central is the ultimate cat team.  They simply aren’t tempted by a hot early pace; if anything, their biggest flaw is too much patience.  Last year at nationals, St. Olaf was well ahead at 6k, and North Central slashed that margin to just two points by the finish.  It’s easy to speculate that they would have won had they been a hair more aggressive earlier.  Again, though, that trademark patience is a huge asset in large fields like Saturday’s.

One team who’s already beaten the defending national champion Oles this fall and will look to play spoiler on Saturday is No. 3 UW-Eau Claire. The Blugolds, No. 11 Wabash, No. 13 Johns Hopkins, No. 14 MIT, No. 16 Washington (Mo.) and No. 17 UW-Stout are the other top-20 DIII teams making the trip to Winneconne this weekend.    The usual WIAC and liberal arts college attendees are joined this year for the first time by GVSU and fellow DII squad No. 8 Augustana (S.D.).

The DIII individuals to watch are WashU’s Drew Padgett, NCC’s Troy Kelleher, and Carleton’s Hart Hornor.  Grand Valley State’s Alan Peterson beat Kelleher by 15 seconds at Notre Dame, so it’s safe to call him the favorite.

The DII-DIII battle is even more pronounced in the women’s race, with a rare No. 1 vs No. 1 matchup.   DIII No. 1 Johns Hopkins beat DII No. 2 Adams State (who may or may not have held a few runners) by 43 points at Paul Short, but challenging No. 1 Grand Valley State is an entirely different matter. 

What Hopkins is to DIII, GVSU is to DII. The Lakers have won the last two nationals titles, and return six out of seven from last year’s champs.  The Jays are similarly two-time defending champs, and return four out of seven from last year’s winners.  Interestingly, they’ve almost entirely re-invented their lineup this fall, as only two of their top seven from Paul Short ran at nationals last fall.  (They expect to get Fran Loeb – 15th at 2013 NCAAs – back, but 2013 fourth-place NCAA finisher Hannah Oneda is done for the year).

Top-35 Teams

AAE Oshkosh Women
1. Johns Hopkins (8)
4. MIT
6. Washington (Mo.)
9. Willamette
12. Carleton
14. Calvin
21. North Central (Ill.)
24. Hope
30. Chicago

Overall, it’s an absolutely loaded women’s race. Two of the top three DII teams—GVSU and No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth—join three of the top six DIII teams, Hopkins plus No. 4 MIT and No. 6 Washington (Mo.).

Individually, it’s a battle of the former National Athletes of the Week: Hopkins’ Sophia Meehan (20:30 at Paul Short) vs. WashU’s Lucy Cheadle (10:20 steepler), or whoever beats them, may establish an early favorite for the individual national title. They’ll likely be chasing Sam Rivard of Duluth and Allyson Winchester of Grand Valley; that duo finished second and third, respectively, in the DII outdoor 5000.

One final note: the Oshkosh course is famously blazing fast.   It’s loops of a dead flat golf course with gentle turns and broad straightaways.  The utter lack of any obstacles and looping nature of the course means that one thing can significantly slow times: wind.  Right now, the forecast for Saturday in Winneconne is for very modest 15 mph winds; if that gets well into the 20s, don’t be surprised if times are particularly slow.

UW-La Crosse Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational

Last year, the No. 2 St. Olaf men used this meet to stamp themselves as new players on the national scene, beating then-No. 2 Lax on its home course by more than 50 points.  The Oles are back to defend their team title this year, and the stiffest opposition will come from a Central Region rival plus two schools that have scantly shown their cards this fall.

Top-35 Teams

Jim Drews Men
2. St. Olaf
5. UW-Platteville
8. Central (Iowa)
10. UW-La Crosse
33. Wartburg

No. 5 UW-Platteville has yet to race its varsity against another ranked team this fall; the race between the Pioneers, No. 8 Central (Iowa) and No. 10 UW-La Crosse will help crystallize the national top ten.   In their biggest races so far, Central tied with Stout at Eau Claire while La Crosse edged out Oshkosh by three points at Roy Griak. 

Eli Horton (check out our preseason interview with him here) of Central clearly hasn’t been himself this fall, not finishing better than seventh in any of his three races so far after finishing fourth at NCAAs a year ago.  If anyone is going to challenge Olaf’s Grant Wintheiser for the individual title Saturday, it’s Horton.

The highest-ranked women’s team is the No. 15 host; the Eagles face off with No. 17 St. Thomas No. 19 St. Olaf, and No. 33 St. Benedict, all out of the Central.  Perhaps the most compelling storylines in the women’s race are among the individuals.

Top-35 Teams

Tori Neubauer Women
15. UW-La Crosse
17. St. Thomas (Minn.)
19. St. Olaf
33. St. Benedict

Sophomore Kimber Meyer of Macalester and seniors Laura Mead (UWL) and Erin Statz (St. Thomas) have not lost to any DIII runners this season other than each other.  And Olaf’s Noelle Olson was the runner-up at nationals last year.  She’s listed on the Oles’ roster, but has only raced three times since XC nationals and has yet to debut this fall.

Debuting on Saturday will be a new course.  The old course was known as one of the tougher in the Midwest (a “tallest midget in the circus” situation if there ever were one), and the meet is moving to Ettrick Golf Course.  We’re curious to hear how the new course runs; drop us a line on Saturday at the Results Wall.

Elsewhere in DIII

Other Big Men’s Meets

Team Meet
7. SUNY Geneseo Oberlin
29. SUNY Oneonta Oberlin
30. Carnegie Mellon Oberlin
20. Haverford Princeton
28. Widener Princeton
34. Swarthmore Princeton
19. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps SCIAC Multi Duals
23. Pomona-Pitzer SCIAC Multi Duals
32. Occidental SCIAC Multi Duals

Other Big Women’s Meets

Team Meet
5. SUNY Geneseo Oberlin
7. Oberlin Oberlin
11. Mount Union Oberlin
12. SUNY Oneonta Oberlin
20. RIT Oberlin
27. Emory Oberlin
32. Ohio Wesleyan Oberlin
33. Carnegie Mellon Oberlin
22. Elizabethtown Princeton
26. Haverford Princeton
35. TCNJ Princeton

The next most important meet this weekend—essentially the last weekend of the regular season—is Oberlin’s Inter-Regional Rumble.  Oberlin may actually be the second best women’s meet of the weekend, as it features fully a third of the top twelve teams in the coaches’ poll.

No. 7 Oberlin should be at full strength on its home course after holding out several runners due to academic conflict at the All-Ohio meet.  They’re going head to head with No. 5 SUNY Geneseo, No. 11 Mount Union, and No. 12 SUNY Oneonta.  Overall, eight ranked women’s teams are racing at the Rumble.

The No. 7 Geneseo men are the only top-25 men’s team at Oberlin; they’re joined by No. 29 SUNY Oneonta and No. 30 Carnegie Mellon.

Both coasts of the country feature high-quality regional action.  Princeton hosts men’s teams 3, 4, and 6 from the Mideast in Haverford, Widener and Swarthmore, while the top three West men’s teams (Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Pomona-Pitzer, and Occidental) are competing at the SCIAC Multi-Duals.  Elizabethtown, Haverford, and TCNJ highlight the women’s race at Princeton.

Each of those nine schools is ranked in the back half of the national poll.

All told, every ranked  men’s and women’s team is racing this weekend except for St. Lawrence and Dickinson.  If you’re a DIII fan, the National Results Wall is by far the best place to follow the action on Saturday.

Men’s Top 35 – DIII

Team Meet
1. North Central (Ill.) Oshkosh
2. St. Olaf La Crosse
3. UW-Eau Claire Oshkosh
4. Williams Little 3
5. UW-Platteville La Crosse
6. Colby Maine States
7. SUNY Geneseo Oberlin
8. Central (Iowa) La Crosse
9. St. Lawrence Off
10. UW-La Crosse La Crosse
11. Wabash Oshkosh
12. Middlebury Albany
13. Johns Hopkins Oshkosh
14. Loras Loras
14. MIT Oshkosh
16. Washington (Mo.) Oshkosh
17. UW-Stout Oshkosh
18. Dickinson Off
19. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps SCIAC Multi Duals
20. Haverford Princeton
21. UW-Oshkosh Oshkosh
22. Amherst Little 3
23. Pomona-Pitzer SCIAC Multi Duals
24. Calvin Oshkosh
25. NYU Conn College
26. Chicago Oshkosh
27. Bates Maine States
28. Widener Princeton
29. SUNY Oneonta Oberlin
30. Carnegie Mellon Oberlin
31. Tufts Conn College
32. Occidental SCIAC Multi Duals
33. Wartburg La Crosse
34. Swarthmore Princeton
35. SUNY Cortland Lafayette

Women’s Top 35 – DIII

Team Meet
1. Johns Hopkins Oshkosh
2. St. Lawrence Off
3. Middlebury Albany
4. MIT Oshkosh
5. SUNY Geneseo Oberlin
6. Washington (Mo.) Oshkosh
7. Oberlin Oberlin
8. Williams Little 3
9. Willamette Oshkosh
10. Tufts Conn College
11. Mount Union Oberlin
12. Carleton Oshkosh
12. SUNY Oneonta Oberlin
14. Calvin Oshkosh
15. UW-La Crosse La Crosse
16. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps SCIAC Multi Duals
17. St. Thomas (Minn.) La Crosse
18. NYU Conn College
19. St. Olaf La Crosse
20. RIT Oberlin
21. North Central (Ill.) Oshkosh
22. Amherst Little 3
22. Elizabethtown Princeton
24. Hope Oshkosh
25. SUNY Cortland Lafayette
26. Haverford Princeton
27. Emory Oberlin
28. Dickinson Off
29. Whitworth Lewis & Clark
30. Chicago Oshkosh
31. Vassar 7 Sisters
32. Ohio Wesleyan Oberlin
33. Carnegie Mellon Oberlin
33. St. Benedict La Crosse
35. TCNJ Princeton