WEEKEND PREVIEW: Pre-Nats Headlines Busy NCAA DIII Slate

It doesn’t get much bigger than this.

Prepare yourself for a massive weekend in NCAA Division III Cross Country, headlined by the Principia College Cowbell Classic – the de facto Pre-National Invitational.

When the meet gets underway on Saturday with the men’s 8K at 11 am CT and the women’s 6K race one hour later, there will be 33 ranked teams in action from the most recent NCAA DIII Cross Country National Coaches’ Polls.

The men’s race features six top-10 teams in No. 1 North Central (Ill.), No. 2 SUNY Geneseo, No. 5 Pomona-Pitzer, No. 8 Washington (Mo.), No. 9 Christopher Newport and No. 10 Calvin. Throw in 11th-ranked Loras, 13th-ranked UW-Eau Claire and 15th-ranked Wartburg and that’s nine from the top-15.

The women’s race has five teams from the top-10: No. 1 Johns Hopkins, No. 2 Washington (Mo.), No. 4 SUNY Geneseo, No. 6 Chicago and No. 10 UW-Eau Claire.

This is going to be an incredible opportunity to see how the clear-cut favorites in both polls match up with one another.

North Central (Ill.) has been its usual, dominant self in 2017. The Cardinals most recently romped to a 15-point score at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships and Dhruvil Patel picked up his second win of the season, while his teammates packed up well behind him.

SUNY Geneseo last rolled out its ‘A’ team in full force at the Purple Valley Classic, where it edged RPI and Amherst. The Knights have a near-automatic low stick in Isaac Garcia-Cassani and will need to put the rest of their scoring lineup near him to put some fear into North Central (Ill.).

Johns Hopkins looked strong at both the Paddy Doyle Meet of Champions and the Paul Short Run, but was without 2016 XC All-Americans Felicia Koerner and Natalie LaSpada in the latter. Koerner and LaSpada are both important cogs to Bobby Van Allen’s group and the Blue Jays need both back to continue their dominance of the division.

Washington (Mo.) took two first-place votes from Johns Hopkins in recent polls and justifiably so. The Bears are rounding into postseason form with the likes of Paige Lawler, Anna Maurer and Audrey Western at the front of the pack. And just last week, Washington (Mo.) demolished the competition at the H.W. Wright Classic as it put 13 runners across the finish line before the runner-up even got one.

This weekend should answer a lot of questions about the powers-that-be in the team race and individual race in NCAA Division III Cross Country. But we won’t have all the answers until the 2017 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships on November 18 on this same course.

Other Meets This Weekend

Oberlin hosts the Great Lakes Inter-Regional Rumble, which you don’t want to confuse with the Inter-Regional Border Battle hosted by Rowan … UW-La Crosse hosts its annual Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational … UW-Oshkosh welcomes a large field to the Lake Breeze Golf Course for the Kollege Town Sports Invitational.