UW-La Crosse, MIT Earn NCAA DIII Program of the Year Awards
NEW ORLEANS – With no more cross country or track & field left on the NCAA Division III calendar, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) announced Thursday the winners of the Al Carius Men’s Program of the Year and Deb Vercauteren Women’s Program of the Year awards for the 2015 DIII season.
UW-La Crosse’s men claimed their third consecutive Al Carius Program of the Year Award, while MIT’s women captured their second Deb Vercauteren Program of the Year Award and their first since the 2010-11 season.
The USTFCCCA Program of the Year Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding cross country/track & field programs in each of the NCAA’s three divisions and for each gender. The award honors the institution that has achieved the most success in each academic year (spanning the cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field seasons) based on the institution’s finish at the NCAA Championships.
In order to be eligible for the award, teams must qualify for each of the NCAA Championships. Scoring is based on the team’s finish at each NCAA Championship in cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field (i.e. 1st = 1 point, 2nd = 2 points, 31st = 31 points) with the lowest total score for all three championships combined determining the award recipient. Ties among schools split points for positions taken.
UW-La Crosse topped WIAC rival UW-Eau Claire, 6-10, with St. Olaf (11) and North Central (Ill.) (14) both very much in contention at the end. The two had been tied for second entering the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
UW-La Crosse’s men and UW-Eau Claire both finished the track & field season with both a national title and runner-up finish – UWL was second indoors and claimed the outdoor title this past weekend, while UWEC was the champ indoors and the runner-up outdoors – with cross country becoming a de facto tiebreaker.
UWL finished third overall in the fall as the No. 4 team in the National Coaches’ Poll prior to the meet, while UWEC finished seventh despite coming in at No. 3.
For the women, MIT survived a pair of track & field national titles from UW-La Crosse to claim its second Program of the Year award with 11½ points, ahead of second-place UW-La Crosse with 15 and third-place Washington (Mo.) with 19.
The Engineers started the year strong with a runner-up finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and followed that up with a tie for fourth-place indoors and a fifth-place finish outdoors.
That consistency in all three seasons clinched the award for MIT, as each of the next four teams in the standings all paired a double-digit national finish in one season with two top-10 efforts.
La Crosse may have won two national titles, but were hurt in the standings by a 13th-place effort in cross country. The Eagles still tied their best Program of the Year finish, dating back to a runner-up finish for the inaugural 2008-09 award.
Washington (Mo.) was third outdoors and fourth in cross country, but finished just 12th indoors. Nonetheless, the Bears still notched their second top-three finish in program history, alongside a runner-up finish in 2011-12.
Fourth-place UW-Eau Claire (23½ points) was second outdoors and tied for fourth indoors, but took a hit with a 17th-place cross country finish. In fifth with 30½ points, Saint Lawrence was third in cross country and tied for eighth outdoors, but was tied for 18th indoors.