NCAA DII Conference Championships Preview
NEW ORLEANS – With cross country action in both NCAA Divisions I and III largely on hold in between this past weekend’s regular-season finale and conference championships at the end of October, this weekend’s national stage belongs to NCAA Division II.
DII’s postseason gets underway in earnest with conference meets all across the country, several of which foreshadow showdowns at the NCAA Championships on November 21 in Joplin, Missouri.
More than half a dozen conferences feature head-to-head matchups between three or more teams ranked inside the National Coaches’ Poll’s top-25 – including top-10 duels in the RMAC, GLIAC, NSIC and CCAA.
Previews of those meets and more below. A full ranked schedule for the conference championships weekend can be found at the bottom of the page.
Saturday, October 24 | 11am ET | Milford, Michigan
Not only is college cross country strong in Michigan at the NCAA DI level – Michigan’s women are No. 2 in the country and Michigan State is the defending national champion – but it is very much alive and well at the NCAA DII level, as well.
The Mitten State is home to both the No. 1 Grand Valley State men and the No. 1 Hillsdale women, as well as the three-time defending national champion No. 3 GVSU women.
A third head-to-head battle this season between the women of Hillsdale (the 2014 NCAA runners-up) and GVSU kicks off the day’s action at 11, in a race that also features No. 9 Northern Michigan, No. 23 Ashland and vote-receiving Malone. A pair of formerly ranked teams in Wayne State (Mich.) and Saginaw Valley State will also look to bolster their national standing, as well.
Very much at stake is the nation-best 14-year conference title streak currently held by the GVSU women. Coincidentally, the third-longest streak among all conference and all genders also belongs to GVSU, as its men have won 13 in a row. The longest streak is 18, held by the Mars Hill men of the South Atlantic Conference.
Hillsdale, however, leads the season series over GVSU, 2-0, behind a pair of individual national title contenders in Emily Oren and Kristina Galat. The Chargers topped the Lakers both at the Michigan State Spartan Invitational and the Greater Louisville Classic.
Having been led by frosh Gina Patterson and three-time All-American senior Jessica Janecke so far this season, the Lakers will potentially debut defending individual national champ Kendra Foley for the first time this season.
Northern Michigan was runner-up to GVSU two weekends ago at the Lewis Crossover.
While the men of GVSU find their winning streak in significantly less peril, anything can happen in cross country. The Lakers are one of two top-25 teams in the field alongside No. 22 SVSU, while both Malone and Walsh are national vote-receiving programs. Ashland and Ferris State have also both appeared in the poll at points earlier this season.
GVSU’s men are led by redshirt frosh Zach Panning, who has stepped in and immediately become the on-course leader of a team that already features four returning All-Americans in Bryce Bradley, Chad Cini, Chris May and Brady Selner.
SVSU’s top man Joey Southgate will likely battle Panning & Co. for the individual title, along with James Ngandu of Tiffin, Nick Hall of Ashland and Ryan Roush of Malone.
Saturday | 12:45pm ET | Colorado Springs, Colorado
With a combined 10 nationally ranked or national vote-receiving teams between the two genders (five each), the RMAC Championships are the deepest in the country in 2015.
Never before have the Colorado Mines men won the RMAC title, but that could very well change this year. The Orediggers enter No. 3 in the country ahead of Adams State and Western State squads in the midst of “down years” at No. 4 and No. 10, respectively. ASU has won nine of the past 10 conference crowns, with the other going to Western State.
Marty Andrie and Nathanael Williams lead the way for CSM, but they’ll have to contend with NCAA title contenders Kiefer Johnson of Western State, Alec Baldwin of No. 17 Black Hills State, Collins Kirui of No. 23 New Mexico Highlands, Derrick Williams of CSU-Pueblo, and an Adams State contingent including Dominic Cabada and Sydney Gibabuday.
Another top-10 battle is set for the women’s race, as No. 2 Adams State and No. 6 Western State will duel, in addition to No. 17 Colorado Mines and vote-receiving CSU-Pueblo.
Adams State, though No. 2 in the country, holds the most first-place votes of any team in the National Coaches’ Poll with four. The Grizzlies are led by Jenna Thurman, Rachel Kresl and Maura O’Brien – all three of whom were All-Americans a year ago.
Western State – which actually defeated Adams State (without O’Brien) two weekends ago at Fort Hays State, 43-46 – is led by Alicja Konienczek, the winner of that Fort Hays State race. She was their top finisher at NCAAs a year ago in 55th.
The Grizzlies have won eight of the past ten league titles, with the other two having gone to Western State.
Sunday, October 25 | Noon ET | San Francisco, California
Another top-10 duel is set for the men’s race at the CCAA Championships on Sunday as national team title contender No. 2 Chico State takes on No. 8 Cal Poly Pomona, as well as host No. 25 SF State and vote-receiving UC San Diego.
The Chico men are actually tied with the aforementioned GVSU men for their gender’s 2nd-longest conference title streak at 13, and will look to keep that going behind a strong core of runners led by individual national title contender Will Reyes. Reyes was third behind Stanford studs Sean McGorty and Grant Fisher at the Stanford Invite as Chico rolled to the DII team title, and he won at SF State two weekends ago to lead the Wildcats to another decisive win. Falco DiGiallonardo and Steven Martinez combine with Reyes for a potent 1-2-3 punch.
Cal Poly was the second DII school at Stanford with top-six individual finishes from Mark Huizar and Francisco Gomez.
The No. 5 Chico State women have a seven-year title streak of their own going, and will look to keep it going against a field that includes No. 24 Cal Poly Pomona and a pair of vote-receiving squads in Cal State San Bernardino and UC San Diego.
The Wildcats took down CPP in late September at the Stanford Invitational, 52-102 (only scoring non-DI teams).
Saturday, October 24 | 11am ET | Falcon Heights, Minnesota
If even half the races across the country this weekend even halfway live up to last year’s NSIC women’s team title race, then we are in store for an excellent weekend of XC action.
The Augustana (S.D.) women won in a tiebreak over then-defending champ Minnesota Duluth, 48-48, after Augie’s No. 5 runner crossed the line just a half second clear of UMD’s No. 5.
Both teams are back this year attached to top-10 National Coaches’ Poll ranks, with UMD at No. 4 and Augustana at No. 8. They’re both joined in the field by No. 21 U-Mary and vote-receiving Winona State (a former top-20 team, itself).
Minnesota Duluth returns a trio of All-Americans in Breanna Colbenson, Emilee Trost and Hannah Olson, while Augustana brings back All-American Annie Kruse, who was third here a year ago.
Defending champ Sasha Hovind of Northern State has not yet raced in 2015, but runner-up Molly Montonye of MSU-Moorhead and sixth-place Alexis Zeis of U-Mary – both National Athletes of the Week so far in 2015 – are primed to duel for the conference’s top individual honor with the UMD and Augie women.
The men’s race isn’t as deep with only No. 7 Augustana (S.D.) ranked in the latest National Coaches’ Poll. They will look to bounce back from a disappointing third-place effort at the Roy Griak in what has been their only national-level competition this season.
Elsewhere Around the Country
These conferences also feature two or more national top-30 teams.
GLVC Championships (Saturday): Individual men’s national title contender Johnnie Guy and his No. 6 Southern Indiana men battle No. 15 UW-Parkside. National Athletes of the Week Amanda Farrough of Lewis and Emily Roberts of Southern Indiana duel in a women’s race that features No. 11 Southern Indiana, No. 13 Bellarmine, No. 15 Lewis and vote-receiving UW-Parkside.
GNAC (Saturday): Individual national title contenders Henry Cheseto and Dominik Notz lead the No. 5 Alaska Anchorage men against No. 12 Simon Fraser and No. 21 Western Washington. The No. 7 Alaska Anchorage women will battle No. 12 Western Washington and No. 18 Seattle Pacific.
PSAC Championships (Saturday): Individual men’s national title contender Dylan Mountain of No. 9 Lock Haven battles against No. 11 Shippensburg and vote-receiving Indiana (Pa.). The women’s race features a three-way duel between No. 13 Bloomsburg, No. 22 Shippensburg and No. 25 Edinboro. Bloomsburg is going for its first PSAC title since 2007.
MIAA Championships (Saturday): No. 16 Pittsburg State and No. 19 Neb.-Kearney battle in the men’s race, along with vote-receiving Northwest Missouri. Of those three, only Northwest Missouri has ever won the conference – way back in 1972.
Northeast-10 Conference (Sunday): The men’s race features No. 20 Stonehill against No. 24 American International. AIC is the defending conference champ, but Stonehill had won the previous three league crowns.