2017 NCAA DII Cross Country Women’s National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – It’s never a given that the team that finishes with the championship hardware the year before is the automatic favorite out of the gate the following season.
It’s even less common when that team loses its best performer.
But that wasn’t stopping Grand Valley State from sitting atop the NCAA Division II Cross Country Women’s National Coaches Poll, announced the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Wednesday.
Despite losing 2016 NCAA Division II Cross Country individual champion Kendra Foley to graduation, the Lakers are slated to be strong once again heading into the 2017 campaign. The deep squad does return Stacey Metzger, who finished 15th (20:57.8) at nationals a year ago as the highest-finishing freshman. Because of this, GVSU garnered seven of the possible eight first-place votes in the preseason poll.
Hot on the Lakers’ heels though are the Grizzlies from Adams State, followed by a strong contingent of teams in Western State, Chico State and Southern Indiana, all of whom finished in the top-5 at the national meet a year ago.
Adams State fell 23 points short of the title last year, but their top-six runners all finished in the top-80. Only two of those women return in Malena Grover (43rd – 21:38.8) and Kaylee Bogina (80th – 22:08.8). Western State loses Georgia Porter to graduation, but still has the likes of Alicja Konieczek – who finished 11th at the national meet last season – on its roster.
Chico State will hitch its wagon to star Karlie Garcia, who ran a 21:20.2 for sixth place at the NCAA Division II West Regionals a year ago. Southern Indiana has the highest finishing returner of all the aforementioned schools in Emily Roberts, whose fifth-place finish a year ago helped the Screaming Eagles to a program-best fifth-place finish.
U-Mary (sixth), Alaska Anchorage (seventh), Cal Baptist (eighth), Minnesota Duluth (t-9th) and Point Loma Nazarene (t-9th) round out the top-10.
U-Mary has a heavy hitter in Alexis Zeis returning. Zeis was the 2016 Central Regional champion and the NCAA Runner-Up for a team that finished seventh overall. Alaska Anchorage finished eighth, but Caroline Kurgat comes back after placing third a year ago in Saint Leo, Florida.
Two teams that did not compete at the 2016 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship made it into the initial top-25 poll of the season in Cal State San Marcos (t-22nd) and Augustana (S.D.) Cal State San Marcos is in its first year in NCAA Division II, joining the ranks from the NAIA, while Augustana (S.D.) looks to return to the national championship scene after failing to qualify a year ago.