The Warm Up/Cool Down (Week of Oct. 15) – NCAA & NAIA Version
It’s nearly impossible not to look at the calendar and think, “What could have been?”
We’re in the third week of October. Fall is in the air. Leaves are beginning to change.
That means it would have been high time for several big meets across the NCAA landscape, namely those that serve as the respective Pre-National Invitational for those divisions — or its analogue. We could have seen the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational and the OSU Invitational at the NCAA DI level, the Evansville Invitational for those NCAA DII athletes and the Kollege Town Sports Invitational for the NCAA DIII-minded folks.
The good news is that one of those meets is still happening, although at a smaller scale. Rest assured that “smaller scale” doesn’t mean a lack of firepower. Oh. It’s far from it, actually.
As it stands right now, eight programs are scheduled to compete in both the men’s race and women’s race on Saturday at the OSU Invitational in Stillwater, Oklahoma: BYU, Kansas State, Northern Arizona, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Christian, Oklahoma State (host), Southern Utah and UTEP. Each of those races features at least one national championship contender from the 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and three All-American athletes to boot.
You don’t have to look too far into the men’s race to see why it should be special. It’s a rematch between the top-2 teams from the past two NCAA Championships: 2019 champion BYU goes up against 2019 runner-up Northern Arizona, which won three consecutive titles between 2016 and 2018 with the Cougars second in 2018 (BYU also placed third the previous year in 2017).
While neither BYU nor NAU has raced this year, Oklahoma State’s men looked strong in their season opener. The Cowboys put all five of their scorers in the top-7 at the Cowboy Jamboree two weeks ago to knock off Iowa State, 23-32. Isai Rodriguez, the fourth-place finisher at the 2018 NCAA Championships, appears to be in fine form as he placed runner-up on October 3.
Expect fireworks in the women’s race as well when BYU takes the course for the first time this season. The Cougars finished a close runner-up to Arkansas at the 2019 NCAA Championships and return Whittni Orton, who finished seventh individually and most recently broke the world record for the fastest mile run while dribbling a basketball at 4:58.56 (4:52.71 altitude-adjusted).
NAU’s women proved to be on the rise last year with a 14th place finish at the NCAA meet, which followed a sixth-place effort in the Mountain Region. Oklahoma State is firing on all cylinders in the fall segment and brandishes two All-Americans from 2019 – Molly Born and Taylor Somers.
Look out for unattached athletes from Colorado in each of the fields, too.
The Men’s 8K goes off at 9 am CT with the Women’s 6K following 50 minutes later.
Other Races of Note
Here are a few different races in each division that stand out to us.
UAB Blazer Classic
We’ll see teams from four different divisions spread across three different races on Saturday at Veterans Park in Birmingham, Alabama: NCAA Division I (Green, Gold & Open), NCAA Division II (Gold & Open) as well as NJCAA Division I (Open) and NJCAA Division II (Open).
The Green Race offers the most intrigue with 10 women’s teams and nine men’s teams ready to duel at 7:45 am CT and 8:15 am CT, respectively. The women’s field includes seven SEC programs, namely Arkansas which has looked dominant so far this season. The Razorbacks rolled to a pair of wins at the SEC Preview on September 19 and the Gans Creek Classic on October 3. The men’s field has six SEC programs in the mix and should feature another thrilling battle for a team title between Arkansas and Ole Miss. The Razorbacks topped the Rebels at the SEC Preview on September by eight points (29-37), but Ole Miss looked rather strong at the Live in the Lou Classic with a 41-point win over Charlotte.
The Gold Race has a mix of NCAA DI and NCAA DII programs, which includes four teams from the NCAA DII Gulf South Conference. Look out for what former NCAA DII National Athletes of the Week Christian Noble and Celine Ritter – both of Lee (Tenn.) – can do against arguably their strongest competition to date this season. The women’s race goes off at 8:50 am CT with the men’s race 30 minutes later.
ACC Triangular Meets
The ACC is back at it again across various triangular meets.
North Carolina, NC State and Wake Forest will race at the ACC Tri-Meet, hosted by Wake Forest in Kernersville, North Carolina. We’ll see two former National Athletes of the Week go head-to-head in the women’s race — Dominique Clairmonte of NC State and Sasha Neglia of UNC.
Then over in Earlysville, Virginia, the Virginia Cavaliers host Duke and Virginia Tech at the Panorama Farms Invitational. Two-time National Athlete of the Week Rohann Asfaw looks to make it three consecutive wins this season against some familiar foes. (NOTE: Panorama Farms was picked to host the 2023 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, which will be the first time the meet has been hosted by Virginia since 1987).
Arturo Barrios Invitational
A bunch of teams from the South Central Region will converge on the Arturo Barrios Invitational this weekend. Slated to compete on Texas A&M’s home course are Baylor, LSU, Texas, Texas A&M (host), TCU and Texas Tech. This is the final regular season competition for many of those programs as they look toward their respective conference championships.
ASU Blue & Gold Classic
Angelo State hosts the Blue & Gold Classic this weekend and welcomes a number of fellow Lone Star Conference programs. Texas A&M Commerce, Dallas Baptist, Texas A&M Kingsville, Cameron, West Texas A&M, UT Permian Basis and Texas A&M International will compete alongside the Rams.
Looking Way Ahead
Next weekend is going to be a big one at the NAIA level with a number of teams competing at the Midwest XC Challenge hosted by Taylor University and the NAIA Regional Challenge hosted by Aquinas (Mich.).