NCAA DIII XC Championships: Breaking Down The Meet

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the second consecutive year, E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park in Louisville, Kentucky will play host to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Runners from Division I took their shot at the looping course last year as Oregon’s Edward Cheserek and Notre Dame’s Molly Seidel won individual titles and the Syracuse men and New Mexico women captured team crowns.

This year it’s time for the athletes from Division III to have their fun.

QUICK LINKS: National Championship Central | Men’s Poll | Women’s Poll

All of the major players from last year’s race in Winneconne, Wisconsin are back to defend their titles: UW-Platteville’s Ian LaMere (individual men), Cornell College’s Abrah Masterson (individual women), UW-Eau Claire (team men) and Williams College (team women).

Can LaMere and Masterson make it two in a row?

What about the Blugolds and Ephs?

Let’s break down all of their chances in likelihood of it happening.

It should also be mentioned that the forecast calls for chilly temperatures and sustained winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour. Gusts could top 40, so that could play a major factor in the race.

LaMere Repeats

Chances: High

No one in DIII can keep up with Ian LaMere when the chips are on the table. Period.

LaMere is on another level compared to his competition at championship meets.

Since the 2015 XC season, LaMere is undefeated at NCAAs. That includes a historic margin of victory last year in XC and a clean sweep of the outdoor distance races (5000/10000).

This year it’s more of the same for LaMere as he’s romped to individual wins at the WIAC Championships and the Midwest Region Championships. Earlier this season LaMere placed 6th in the Men’s Gold Race at the Louisville Classic, while other DIII athletes ran in the Silver Race.

LaMere routed Zach Plank, his closest competitor, by 18 seconds at the Midwest Region Championships and ran 54 seconds faster than him on the same course the meet will be run on Saturday back in early October.

A LaMere repeat is in the cards.

Williams Repeats

Chances: Moderate

Williams finds itself in a familiar position.

The Ephs enter the 2016 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships as the underdog to top-ranked Johns Hopkins, just as they did last year. The only difference is that Williams is 5th now, compared to 2nd in 2015.

Status didn’t matter to the Ephs last year as they romped to a team title. Williams ran like a juggernaut and scored 81 points, 97 fewer than runner-up SUNY Geneseo. Johns Hopkins was also beat by MIT and finished 4th.

For the Ephs to repeat, they’ll need unsung heroes to step up and Victoria Kingham to have another strong race (11th last year).

Williams must also beat teams it recently lost to, like MIT and SUNY Geneseo. It just so happens that both of them were ranked above the Ephs in the Pre-Championships Edition of the National Coaches’ Poll.

We wouldn’t rule a Williams repeat out, but Johns Hopkins won’t roll over again.

UW-Eau Claire Repeats

Chances: Low

UW-Eau Claire had to claw and scratch for its team title last year.

The Blugolds held off a game challenge from Williams as they won 135-144.

That was with Josh Thorson (2nd), Ryan Mugan (11th) and Christian Leitner (38th). None of those runners are back as Leitner and Mugan graduated, while Thorson transferred to DII Academy of Art. The Blugolds still have Darin Lau (14th) and Nick Petersson (112th), but depth is no longer their strength.

Plus, North Central (Ill.) is taking names and chewing bubble gum and as of last check, Al Carius’ team is all out of bubble gum.

The Cardinals have been on a rampage recently, laying waste to the competition. North Central (Ill.) steamrolled the field at the Louisville Classic (26 points), Kollege Town Sports Invitational (24), CCIW Championships (15) and most recently the Midwest Region Championships where it drubbed runner-up UW-Eau Claire 37-91.

If the Cardinals run their race, the team trophy is coming back to Naperville, Illinois.

Masterson Repeats

Chances: Low

The Queen sends her regards.

If you don’t know by now, the ruler of women’s distance racing in DIII is Amy Regan.

Since coming off a redshirt, Regan has been on fire. The Stevens Institute standout swept the 2016 indoor-outdoor distance slate clean at NCAAs (3000/5000/5000/10000) and has yet to lose this XC season (6-0).

The closest anybody has come to beating Regan on an XC course in 2016 was in mid-October at the Rowan Border Battle. Regan only won by 9 second over Ithaca’s Taryn Cordani. Three weeks later, Regan beat Cordani by 19 seconds on the same course.

Before we forget, Masterson and Regan went head to head twice at the 2016 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Regan won both times by an average of 28 seconds.

This is Regan’s race to lose.