Meet Preview: 2020 NJCAA DIII Cross Country Championships

It’s finally here.

After months of speculation and a few more months of racing, the 2020 NJCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will take place this weekend at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge, Iowa. This marks the first time since 2001 that the meet will be held outside of the Northeast.

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 race gets underway at 12 pm CT with the Men’s 8K scheduled to begin 45 minutes later.

Men’s Race

Mineral Area (Mo.) is expected to repeat as national champions, based on the final NJCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Ranking for the 2020 season.

The Cardinals, who entered the 2019 meet as the favorite and ran away with the title after putting five runners in the top-25, are projected to do the same come November 14 at the NJCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Only time will tell if MAC fills the top-25 with as many runners, but the coaches feel it’s their title to lose.

Behind three-time National Athlete of the Week Donovan Denslow’s strong running, the Cardinals come into the national meet on a roll, having won three consecutive meets. Denslow placed in the top-2 of each of those past three races – including a victory at the recent Region XVI Championships – and MAC took down teams from several different divisions in those races.

Joliet (Ill.) JC is projected to be the next best contender for the national title. The second-ranked Wolves recently competed at the Kishwaukee Halloween Hootenanny and fared well, placing four runners in the top-10. Former National Athlete of the Week Julian Rosenbach is among those athletes expected to vie for the individual title.

The only other top-5 program fielding a full team this weekend is No. 4 Georgia Military College, fresh off a runner-up finish at the Region XVII Championships. The Bulldogs have some bark and bite atop their lineup with Heath McDonald and Daniel Turnipseed, who both finished in the top-3 at that regional meet.

Don’t rule out podium appearances by No. 7 St. Charles (Mo.) CC or NR Kellogg (Mich.) CC.

Here are the other programs with male athletes entered: College of DuPage (7), Patrick Henry College (4), Sandhills CC (3).

Women’s Race

Joliet (Ill.) JC has been the favorite all year long to win the women’s team title at the 2020 NJCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

That wasn’t going to change in the final NJCAA Division III Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Ranking of the regular season as the Wolves hold down the No. 1 spot for the fourth consecutive week. The Wolves are looking to win their first national title in program history.

Five-time National Athlete of the Week honoree Tiffany Lehmann is the star runner for JJC and the program has a number of other capable athletes surrounding her. Lehmann, running in her first cross country season ever after previously playing soccer, is considered the favorite to win the individual title and has posted several dominant victories in the past few weeks (most recently at the Kishwaukee Halloween Hootenanny) and enters the meet on a wave of momentum.

Kellogg (Mich.) CC could make things interesting this weekend, having most recently romped to a team title at the Region XII Championships. The Bruins went 1-2-3 at the meet and were led by individual title contender Hannah Wilkinson, who covered the 5K tract in 20:43.2. Look out for Emma Berning and Kennedy Vanderlugt in the lead pack, too.

Two other programs will field full rosters at the meet: No. 3 Georgia Military College and No. 4 Westmoreland County (Pa.) CC. The Bulldogs most recently won the team title at the Region XVII Championships and are led by former National Athlete of the Week Paige White. The Wolfpack starred at the Region XX Championships with four runners in the top-10 and are led by former National Athlete of the Week Brooke Bertovich.

Here are the other programs with female athletes entered: Patrick Henry College (4), College of DuPage (3), Mineral Area College (2), St. Charles CC (2).