2019 NCAA DII Cross Country Regional Rankings – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – When the calendar turns to November, NCAA Division II cross country programs will gear up in hopes of grabbing a top-three automatic qualifying spot from their respective regional meet to gain entry into the national championships. This year’s nationals will be held on November 23 in Sacramento, Calif.
The following are the 2019 preseason regional rankings released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). These rankings are chosen subjectively by a member coach in each region with the assistance of conference representatives within the division’s poll committee and gave a general outlook to what could come in each region. The next regular release will be delivered on September 17.
The Golden Eagles of the University of Charleston in West Virginia shocked the Atlantic region in 2018. The program earned its first regional and conference title last season, and are projected as the preseason No. 1 to start the new year. This preseason ranking technically is the first No. 1 regional ranking for the team who surged from an eighth-place finish in the region in 2017 to the title a year ago. Sixth-year coach Nick Bias returns six-of-the-top-seven from last year’s group, led by All-American Jack Mastandrea, and welcomes five-time NJCAA All-American transfer Kyle Hinson from Louisburg (N.C.) to his reigning Mountain East Conference champion squad.
Edinboro, brining back five-of-the-top-seven from winning the PSAC title a year ago, starts the year at No. 2. Concord, having finished the regional championship in fourth place for the past three years, starts the year at No. 3, tying their all-time best ranking. Shippensburg — regional champs in 2015, 2016, and 2017 — begin the season at No. 4.
Missouri Southern, after finishing runner-up in the previous two years, won the region for the first time since 2009 last November. The Lions return the same squad, including reigning region champ Gidieon Kimutai for his sophomore campaign, and adds Tulsa transfer Ryan Riddle to the roster.
MSSU with a 55-73 gap over Augustana (S.D.) for the region crown, spoiled the Vikings six-year reign atop the standings. Augustana, aiming for its ninth-straight automatic qualifying slot for the national championships, return six-of-its-top-seven, and start the season ranked No. 3.
The big surprise from last year’s NCAA championships was the all-time program best, fifth-place showing by Sioux Falls. Third in the region last year, its best finish since 2014, the Cougars enter the preseason ranked No. 2 in the region with six-of-their-top-seven from a year ago returning, including seventh-place national finishing Mason Phillips.
Stonehill, No. 1 in the preseason, led by 2019 USTFCCCA Coaches Hall of Fame inductee Karen Bown, is the two-time defending champions of the region. The Skyhawks return a majority of the squad from a year ago, led by All-American Lucas Taxter.
Southern Connecticut State emerges at an all-time program-best No. 2 preseason ranking. The Owls return six-of-the-seven that pulled off a surprise capture of the Northeast-10 Conference title a year ago, going on to finish third in the region for their first NCAA championship bid and improving from a 13th-place showing in 2017.
American International and Stonehill has tussled atop the region’s standings the past five years, and the Yellow Jackets have earned five-straight NCAA automatic qualifying spots in finishing first or second each of those years. AIC opens at No. 3 after losing 2018 regional champion Leaky Kipkosgei to graduation but have a bevy of incoming freshmen to watch.
Grand Valley State’s men has won a regional crown for 17-straight years and the defending national champions are poised for another big season. Despite losing to graduation national runner-up Zach Panning and top-10 finisher Enael Woldemichael, the Lakers bring back a veteran group led by All-American Tanner Chada.
Saginaw Valley State, at No. 2 is coming off their best regional finish since 2009. Last year’s runner-up showing was a four-spot improvement over their sixth-place 2017 finish.
Southern Indiana, ranked third, return Austin Nolan, the reigning GLVC champion for the reigning GLVC team champion Screaming Eagles.
Lee University garners the top spot top open the season as they return their squad’s top ten from a year ago. Christian Noble led the Flames last year with an 18th-place showing at the national championships. Lee, last year’s region runner-up, has placed first or second in the region in each of the four years of their active membership in NCAA DII.
In just their second year of full membership in DII, Embry-Riddle (Fla.) won the region title. They will begin 2019 at No. 2 as the team lost a pair of their top squad to gradation, but they return a solid group led by Sunshine State Conference defending champion Shaun Bullock.
South Central Region
The path to the national championship and the podium runs straight through the South Central region. Adams State, Colorado School of Mines, and Western Colorado have dominated the NCAA podium for years and its stature as the preeminent DII region is likely to continue. The past two years, three RMAC and South Central region teams have been national championship “podium” squads, landing top-four NCAA finishes.
Western Colorado, third in the region and third in the nation last year, has been tapped as the initial No. 1 squad in the ultra-competitive grouping as they return four All-Americans including junior Taylor Stack who placed fifth in the NCAA meet last year.
Colorado School of Mines, the region’s defending champion team and national runner-up in 2018, start at No. 2 in the region. The Orediggers return four-of-their-top-seven.
Adams State, at No. 3, lost a hefty one-two punch of Sydney Gidabuday and Elias Gedyon to graduation and will look down the roster to see who steps up this season. The Grizzlies are the reigning RMAC champions and have won the region in five-of-the-last-seven years.
Queens (N.C.) won the region for the first time since 2011 last year and enter as the region’s No. 1. The Royals placed ninth at last year’s national championships but lost-three-of their-top-five to graduation.
At No. 2, Mount Olive, last year’s runner-up, has been an NCAA automatic qualifier in each of the last eight years, having won the region crown in four of those years. The Trojans have also lost three-of-their-top-five who were seniors a year ago.
Augusta, at No. 3, has finished in that position in each of the last two years, but have only lost of its top seven to graduation for this season.
Chico State, No. 1 in the preseason, has won the region in six of the last seven years and is on a three-year winning streak. The Wildcats return two All-Americans to the squad that was seventh in the nation a year ago.
At No. 2, Simon Fraser, last year’s regional runner-up, improved from a ninth-place finish in 2016 to fourth in 2017. The team lost half of their squad to graduation.
Alaska Anchorage, at No. 3, returns region runner-up Felix Kemboi and reigning GNAC champion Wesley Kirui.
Two-time reigning region champ Edinboro starts the season at No. 1.
Shippensburg, Lock Haven, and Seton Hall follows at Nos. 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Shippensburg, third last year, last won the region in 2016.
Last year’s regional runner-up California (Pa.) enters at No. 6.
U-Mary, the three-time defending regional champions, still reign at No. 1 in the region. They graduated the top two from the 2018 national runner-up squad, but the rest of the scoring seven return: Each of which placed in the national top 50 last year.
At No. 2, Augustana (S.D.), last year’s regional runner-up, also lost its 1-2 combo to graduation, but have solid depth with those returning from last year’s squad and redshirt.
Pittsburg State, third last year enters at No. 3, and returns their top two from last year’s regional meet.
All of last year’s scoring seven returns for Roberts Weselyan, jumping them to the No. 1 spot in the preseason outlook. The team finished runner-up in the region in 2018.
Stonehill, winners of the region last year for seven-of-the-last-nine years, starts at No. 2 and return Anna Lastra, 2018 Northeast-10 Champ and region runner-up.
Assumption, the 2017 region champ, stands at No. 3. Merrimack, third-place in the region last year, has begun its transition to NCAA’s Division I and will not return to the region.
While the GVSU men has won 17-straight region titles, the Laker women have won 18 consecutive crowns. Also the defending national champions and winners of the NCAA title six times this decade, Grand Valley State lost Sarah Berger, 2018 national champion, and Gina Patterson but are still expected to be very strong. They retain their No. 1 spot in the region rankings, a place held since 2015.
Hillsdale, enters at No. 2, having been the region’s runner-up in each of the last two years. They return six-of-the-top-seven from a year ago.
Michigan Tech, holds their No. 3 standing from last year’s regional where they earned its first NCAA championship bid. The Huskies have been the the most-improved team in the region over the past several years, progressing from 20th in 2013 to 14th in 2015 to eighth in 2017.
Lee (Tenn.) starts the season at No. 1 in the region after placing third in the region a year ago. The Flames return most of the scoring-seven from a year ago, including Gulf South Conference champ Chloe Flora, and adds Mount Olive transfer Celine Ritter who placed in the nation’s top 60 in 2018.
The defending regional champions Embry-Riddle (Fla.) start at No. 2 in the preseason order. While most of the squad returns, including South region and Sunshine State Conference reigning champ Sarah Edens, a loss to graduation of Kristen Metcalfe will be a hurdle for the group to overcome.
Union (Tenn.) is ranked third among the South teams. Runner-up in the region a year ago, the program returns its scoring-five.
South Central Region
Adams State has *never not* been the No. 1-ranked team in the South Central region since its current reorganization in 2012. The Grizzlies have also *never not* finished No. 1 in said region. ASU placed third at the national championships in 2018.
Last year’s region runner-up Western Colorado sticks at No. 2 in the preseason.
Colorado School of Mines, UC-Colorado Springs, and Biack Hills State round out the region’s top five.
Two-time defending champions Queens (N.C.) remain at No. 1 although four of their championship scoring-seven will not return this year.
No. 2 Flagler was the comeback story of the region in 2018 as the squad improved from a seventh-place showing in 2017 to a runner-up finish. The crew lost their 1-2 from that showing, but return a strong core.
Anderson (S.C.) will seek a third-straight NCAA automatic qualifying bid as they enter the preseason No. 3, equaling their finish in 2018, with their scoring-five in tact.
Year-in and year-out the West has shown great strength on the national scale. This year is expected to be more of the same.
Chico State, third in the region and ninth in the nation last year, gained the No. 1 preseason nod.
Defending regional champion and seventh in the nation last year, Alaska Anchorage, starts at No. 2 in the rankings. Emmanuelah Chelimo and Nancy Jeptoo placed 1-2 in the region last year, and are slated to return.
Simon Fraser, runner-up last year, enters at No. 3.