Meet Preview: 2020 NJCAA DII Cross Country Championships

It’s finally here.

After months of speculation and a few more months of racing, the 2020 NJCAA Division II Cross Country Championships will take place this weekend in Fort Dodge, Iowa. This is the first time since 2003 that cross country champions will be crowned in this division (“In Da Club” and “Ignition” topped the Billboard Hot 100 that year; “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” grossed $1 billion in theaters).

From The USTFCCCA InfoZone: National Championships Central

Here is our preview of the meet, which should be a fantastic culmination to the 2020 season.

The Women’s 5K gets underway at 2:30 pm, followed by the Men’s 8K 45 minutes later.

Men’s Preview

Based on the most recent National Coaches’ Poll, it should be a dogfight for the team title between Cowley College and North Iowa Area CC. The Tigers recently took over the No. 1 spot in the rankings from the Trojans, but NIACC had a stake to the No. 1 spot in Week 1 and Week 4.

Cowley College comes into the meet with the best victory on its resume, coming two weeks ago at the Region VI Championships. It was in El Dorado, Kansas, where the Tigers weren’t just the top NJCAA DII program – but the top NJCAA program, period. Cowley College put all of its scorers in the top-20 and won the overall regional title against four top-10 NJCAA DI programs.

The Trojans recently captured the NJCAA DII crown at the Region XI Championships. Melvin Kipkemboi and Jorge Ruiz paced NIACC at the meet, just like they have done throughout the fall to this point (Kipkemboi finished fourth overall with Ruiz one spot behind in fifth).

Don’t discount the title chances of No. 3 Allen CC or No. 4 Hawkeye CC, either.

The race for the individual title should come down to Amos Pkiach of Cowley College, the aforementioned NIACC duo of Kipkemboi and Ruiz, as well as Sam Mickelson of Hawkeye CC.

Women’s Preview

Based on results from the 2020 season, Cowley College appears poised to double up on crowns this weekend. Not only are the Tigers the unanimous No. 1 team in the most recent National Coaches’ Poll, but they also feature Lubna Suied, the prohibitive individual favorite.

Cowley College, behind Suied’s six-second individual victory, finished as the top NJCAA DII program and the overall runner-up at the Region VI Championships two weeks ago to NJCAA DI No. 1 Cloud County CC. In fact, whenever Suied won a race this fall – four of them, to be exact – the Tigers are undefeated against NJCAA DII foes.

Heartland CC, ranked second, is considered to be Cowley College’s toughest challenger. The Hawks enter the meet on a roll, having snagged three consecutive team titles. Heartland CC most recently put five runners in the top-10 to capture the Region XXIV crown.

Other podium contenders are No. 3 Hawkeye CC, No. 4 Grand Rapids CC and No. 5 St. Clair County CC. The RedTails are led by former National Athlete of the Week Ryann Portch, while the Raiders and Skippers are quite familiar with each other following numerous battles.

Two-time National Athlete of the Week Sarah Bertry of NIACC is another individual to watch.