2018 NCAA DIII Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – There was a disturbance in the force at the end of the 2016 cross country season, but now entering the 2018 campaign, things appear back to normal.
Johns Hopkins was No. 1 for 27 consecutive weeks between 2013 and 2015 before Williams knocked Bobby Van Allen’s team off its pedestal at the 2015 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. The Blue Jays sat third or fourth for six consecutive weeks until Week 6 of 2016, when they flew back to their familiar spot.
Thirteen weeks later, Johns Hopkins remains atop of the National Coaches’ Poll following a pair of national championships. The Blue Jays enter the 2018 season as the odds-on favorite to make it three in a row and six of the past seven come November 17.
Johns Hopkins returns a majority of its roster from last year’s team that won the NCAA title by 95 points. Three of those athletes were All-Americans in Elsah, Illinois: Ellie Clawson (third), Natalia LaSpada (23rd) and Therese Olshanski (29th). Clawson also stood out during the outdoor track circuit as she pulled off a tough double at the NCAA Championships with a seventh-place finish in the 10,000 and an eighth-place finish in the 5000.
According to the pollsters, Washington (Mo.) is the biggest threat to the Blue Jays’ reign. The Bears sit No. 2 for the second year in a row to begin the season and while they lose Alison Lindsay, they’ll welcome back Aly Wayne who missed the entire 2017 season due to injury. Wayne made up for lost time at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships when she finished fourth in the 10,000 and fifth in the 5000. Don’t forget about Paige Lawler, either (Lawler finished third and seventh, respectively, in those races).
UW-Eau Claire starts the season ranked No. 3, which is its best initial billing since 2010 when was the preseason favorite. The Blugolds finished runner-up to Johns Hopkins at NCAAs last year, but lost two of its top-3 runners. Sam Slattery is the top returner for UW-Eau Claire after finishing 17th in cross country and ninth in the 10,000 this past May.
SUNY Geneseo and MIT are neck and neck to round out the top-5.
The Knights sit fourth in the first poll of the season and will be looking for big things from Elise Ramirez (46th in cross country last year and 14th in the outdoor 5000) and Allie Fernandez, among others. SUNY Geneseo has been ranked in the top-5 of the preseason poll in each of the past four years.
The Engineers have one All-American from last year coming back (Leandra Zimmerman) and another runner who is on the rise (Megan McCandless). MIT could also be buoyed by the likes of Marissa McPhillips and Katie Bacher, both of whom reached the finals of the 1500 at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
There is a gap between the rest of the top-10, where No. 6 Middlebury, No. 7 Wheaton (Ill.), No. 8 Williams, No. 9 Carleton and No. 10 Ithaca reside.
Be sure to check back in throughout the season as a lot can change between now and November 17 when the 2018 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships take place in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.