2017 NCAA DIII Cross Country Men’s National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – Any coach will tell you it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
But if that team is North Central (Ill.) and we’re talking about the NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll, it forecasts a pretty good result for Al Carius’ squad.
For the seventh time in program history, the Cardinals are ranked No. 1 in the preseason. All but two of those previous iterations ended with North Central (Ill.) standing on top of the podium following the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.
The Cardinals are the defending national champions and last year’s meet wasn’t even close. North Central (Ill.) put five in the top-20 and romped to a 60-204 win over SUNY Geneseo.
This year the Cardinals return three of those five men who finished in the top-20, led by Al Baldonado, who finished 15th overall. Joining Baldonado will be Dhruvil Patel and Zach Hird, as well as a litany of talented runners ready to leave their mark on the dynasty.
SUNY Geneseo starts the season ranked No. 2 and returns four runners who helped them nab second place at NCAAs in 2016. Isaac Garcia-Cassani is leading the charge once again for the Knights as he is coming off an incredible track season and finished fourth at NCAAs last year.
UW-La Crosse might have finished sixth at NCAAs in 2016, but the coaches feel the program is on the rise in 2017. The Eagles come in ranked No. 3 and lost just one athlete to graduation from their top-7 last year.
Williams sits No. 4 and that’s an improvement upon its placement last year in Louisville, Kentucky (ninth). The Ephs lost Peter Hale, who was a double champion during the indoor and outdoor track season, but return Ben Decker (44th at NCAAs last year) and four of his battle-tested teammates.
UW-Eau Claire comes in at No. 5 and hasn’t been ranked lower than fourth to begin the season since 2013 when it bookended the top-10. The Blugolds welcome back three of their top-5 runners from last year including Darin Lau, who finished sixth at NCAAs last year and placed in the top-3 in both distance races in outdoor track.
MIT sits sixth and that ties the best preseason ranking for that program. The Engineers were sixth back in 2014 and have a strong roster to contend again with Dennis Maloney (12th overall at NCAAs last year) leading the way.
Christopher Newport is ranked No. 8 and that’s the highest ranking in program history for Matthew Barreau’s team. The Captains finished 11th at NCAAs last year and packed up well behind both Grayson Reid and John LaPointe.
Other teams in the top-10 include No. 7 Johns Hopkins, No. 9 Loras and No. 10 Pomona-Pitzer.
The 2017 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be held Saturday, November 18, in Elsah, Illinois at the North Farm Facility. Principia will serve as host of the meet.