WEEKEND PREVIEW: NCAA Cross Country Season Heats Up

NOTE: This preview has been corrected to remove Iowa State from the men’s race at the Roy Griak Invitational. Also, Bethanie Brown is not running for Iowa State women in Minnesota.

Business is about to pick up across all three divisions in NCAA Cross Country.

We’re in store for the first big weekend of the 2017 season as teams from around the nation travel to the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown and the Roy Griak Invitational, among others.

QUICK LINKS: Meets This Weekend

Less than two months remain until November 18, which is when all three of the NCAA Cross Country Championships will take place.

Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown

Friday, September 22 | Boston, Mass.

Fans are going to see what No. 3 Syracuse can do without the services of 2016 NCAA XC runner-up Justyn Knight, who is getting some much needed rest after a long track season that saw him finish ninth in the 5000 at the IAAF World Championships in London.

The Orange will debut Colin Bennie and Philo Germano, though. Bennie and Germano have been important cogs in each of the past two podium finishes for Syracuse at NCAAs, including its 2015 championship team.

No. 21 Indiana and No. 27 Illinois will provide the stiffest competition for the Orange in Boston as both teams had strong showings so far this season.

Over in the women’s race, No. 7 Providence is the headliner. This is a meet the Friars have dominated the past two years, including a 25-point total in 2016. Providence welcomes back Catarina Rocha to a formidable lineup that includes Brianna Ilarda and Katie Lembo.

No. 18 Indiana, No. 25 Georgetown and RV Harvard hope to ruin the Friars’ chances at a three-peat. The Hoosier are a team on the rise, literally, as they jumped eight spots in the most recent National Coaches’ Poll from No. 26 to No. 18.

Roy Griak Invitational

Saturday, September 23 | Falcon Heights, Minn.

Seven ranked NCAA Division I teams will be in action on Saturday at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minnesota – four in the men’s race and four in the women’s race.

No. 18 Colorado State is the top-ranked team in the Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition and hopes to make a statement early in the season with seniors Grant Fischer and Jerrell Mock leading the charge. It’s safe to say Mock had a bit of success on the 8K tract in Minnesota as he could become the first back-to-back individual champ since BYU’s Kip Kangogo did so in 2002 and 2003.

No. 20 UCLA and No. 25 Michigan State round out the rest of the ranked men’s teams. The Spartans won the 2015 team title in a thriller over Southern Utah.

San Francisco is the top-ranked women’s team in the field as it was No. 8 in the most recent National Coaches’ Poll. Charlotte Taylor is the individual to watch for the Dons as she won the NCAA 10,000-meter title back in June and is still looking for her first career win in XC. Taylor finished eighth at this meet last year.

Host Minnesota is ranked No. 19 and should be a formidable foe for USF on its home course. The Gophers finished ninth in this meet last year and want a better showing in 2017.

No. 20 Michigan State took runner-up distinction behind Portland last year and is the top returning team in the standings as the Pilots aren’t back to defend their title. The Spartans got a nice warmup last week at the Spartan Invitational and will dial it up a bit this week.

No. 23 Iowa State comes in with fresh legs having only raced once this season, which was back on September 1 at the Hawkeye Invitational.  The Cyclones are young and will get some good experience racing against elite competition in a deep field.

There should be a good battle in the Women’s Maroon II (NCAA Division II) Competition as No. 4 U-Mary battles No. 5 Simon Fraser. No. 19 Northern Michigan and No. 22 Minnesota-Duluth could make things quite interesting for both of those teams as well.

The Men’s Maroon II Competition features three teams ranked in the top-20 of the most recent poll – t-No. 13 Simon Fraser, No. 15 Sioux Falls and No. 18 Augustana (S.D.).

St. Thomas (Minn.)’s women are the only ranked NCAA Division III program in action at the Roy Griak Invitational this year.

Purple Valley Classic

Saturday, September 23 | Williamstown, Mass.

This is arguably the most meaningful NCAA Division III meet of the weekend as it pertains to next week’s National Coaches’ Polls.

When it comes to men’s teams, you’ll see No. 4 Williams (host), No. 8 MIT, No. 14 RPI, No. 15 Amherst and No. 24 Dickinson, among others.

The women’s race features three top-5 teams – No. 3 MIT, No. 4 Williams and No. 5 SUNY Geneseo – as well as No. 7 Ithaca (including NCAA individual favorite Taryn Cordani), No. 12 RPI, No. 16 Dickinson, No. 17 St. Lawrence, No. 26 Tufts and No. 35 Rochester (N.Y.).