WEEKEND PREVIEW: October 25-27

If a team from the NAIA is looking to make one final push for the postseason, chances are that it will be competing at the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge this weekend.

Actually, that chance is close to 20%, because just about 1 in every 5 programs that sponsor cross country in the NAIA is headed to the meet hosted by Aquinas College.

From The USTFCCCA InfoZone: Meets & Results

“We’ve received such an amazing response to the meet this year,” Aquinas head coach Mike Wojciakowski said. “It’s definitely one of the biggest NAIA-only meets in the country.

“I was getting calls as late as last week from teams from Florida and Montana looking to get into the meet since they heard about what kind of competition we’ll have here.”

2019 NAIA Great Lakes Challenge – Maroon Races

Men’s Ranked Teams
Women’s Ranked Teams
No. 5 St. Francis (Ill.)
No. 2 Madonna (Mich.)
No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan
No. 4 St. Francis (Ill.)
No. 9 Taylor (Ind.)
No. 5 Taylor (Ind.)
No. 10 Olivet Nazarene
No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan
No. 11 Shawnee State
No. 8 Aquinas (Mich.)
No. 12 Huntington (Ind.)
No. 9 Cornerstone (Mich.)
No. 17 Goshen (Ind.)
No. 13 Rocky Mountain
No. 20 Rocky Mountain
No. 14 Southeastern (Fla.)
No. 21 Cornerstone (Mich.)
No. 16 Huntington (Ind.)
No. 23 UM-Dearborn
No. 20 Shawnee State
No. 22 Columbia (Mo.)
No. 25 Tennessee Wesleyan

There will be 25 teams in each of the races in the Maroon Division, 21 in the Men’s White Division and 20 more in the Women’s White Division.

When you break it down even more, 12 of those teams that will be racing in the Women’s Maroon Division are nationally-ranked, including six in the top-10. Former No. 1, but now No. 2 Madonna (Mich.) goes up against No. 4 St. Francis (Ill.), No. 5 Taylor, No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan, No. 8 Aquinas (Mich.) and No. 9 Cornerstone (Mich.).

“This is going to be such a great opportunity for everybody to see how they match up with each other with nationals just a few weeks away,” Wojciakowski said. “There are times when we won’t see this many ranked teams in one place until nationals, so it’s a big deal for us.”

Perhaps, more important, is the fact that the weather forecast looks exponentially better than it did last year. Right now it’s projected to be 40 degrees at the start of the day with light wind.

“I felt so bad for the women last year, because as soon as the men’s race ended, it opened up,” Wojciakowski said. “It was raining, then a thunderstorm and then hailed, all in the matter of about an hour before they could get back on the course.”

Speaking of the men’s race this year, 10 nationally-ranked programs will be in the mix, including four from the top-10. No. 5 St. Francis (Ill.) headlines the bunch, while No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan, No. 9 Taylor and No. 10 Olivet Nazarene aren’t too far behind in the poll.

The Men’s Maroon Division starts the day off at 10:30 am ET, followed by the Women’s Maroon Division one hour later. The Men’s White Division takes to the course at 12:15 pm ET, followed by the Women’s White Division one hour later to wrap up the day.

“I want teams to be able to mark this meet down in their calendar and call it a highlight of their season,” Wojciakowski said. “We’re going in the right direction and investing back into it so we can get the little things right –like nice backpacks for the top-finishing athletes and chip timing at every mile – that go a long way in the eyes of athletes and coaches.”