Weekend Preview: D2 XC National Invitational & Much More
The fall segment of the NCAA Division II cross country season draws to a close this weekend with the running of the Division II Cross Country National Invitational in Lubbock, Texas, as well as the Peach Belt Conference Championships in Oakwood, Georgia.
There will also be two conference championships at the NAIA level.
Our focus, however, will center on the Division II Cross Country National Invitational, where 24 teams from four different conferences (Gulf South, Lone Star, MIAA and RMAC) – in addition to select individuals from those aforementioned conferences and one other (GLVC) – will compete on the Lubbock Christian University Cross Country Course over the 10K and 6K distance.
Here was the selection process, according to meet organizers: “A team that finishes in the top 40% of the teams who are eligible to compete at their conference championship will be invited, along with the top-3 individuals not on a qualifying team. (In the case that a qualified team or individual does not accept the invitation, then their qualifying spot will remain vacant.)
The Men’s 10K gets underway first at 9:30 am CT with two conference championship teams among its ranks: Alabama-Huntsville from the Gulf South Conference and West Texas A&M from the Lone Star Conference. It should be noted that a third could get by on a technicality, since Nebraska-Kearney won the Newman Team Invitational, which brought together seven of the 11 teams from the MIAA and served as the conference’s qualifier for this meet.
Of the 12 men’s teams entered, three could be suited better for the 10K distance on short notice, compared to the others: West Texas A&M, UAH and University of Colorado Colorado Springs. All three of those programs finished in the top-20 at the 2019 NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships, led by a top-10 mark by the Buffs. It just so happens that the Buffs have Ezekiel Kipchirchir, who is this meet’s top individual finisher from NCAAs last year on its roster (Kipchirchir has struggled a bit this year, though: He most recently finished 22nd at the Lone Star Conference Championships).
Dallas Baptist is the lone conference championship team in the Women’s 6K, which is scheduled to start at 10:15 am CT (Although, we could also say Northwest Missouri State, as well, based on the same reasoning we used for Nebraska-Kearney above). The Patriots dominated the Lone Star Conference Championships two weeks ago, putting five runners in the top-10 (2-3-5-6-9) for a 60-point win over West Texas A&M.
Out of the 12 women’s teams entered, UCCS has been the best historically against teams from different conferences. The Mountain Lions finished fourth in the South Central Region last year behind Adams State, Colorado Mines and Western Colorado and then took 15th at NCAAs. Layla Almasri and Hannah Ellis are the top-2 runners for UCCS, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively, at the RMAC Championships two weeks ago.
Peach Belt Conference Championships
A year unlike any other leads to opportunities unlike any other.
Take it from the Peach Belt Conference website: “The 2020 PBC Championship will have an unprecedented level of live online coverage including a multiple-camera live video presentation and live scoring updates. The video will be presented via the PBC Network, which can be watched on any mobile device by downloading the PBC Network app along with most major television streaming devices including Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire and more.”
The meet — which takes place on Saturday beginning with the Men’s 8K at 9:30 am ET — will be contested on the University of North Georgia campus. Athletes will traverse multiple laps of a small looped course, which gives ample opportunity for coverage (Men will do five laps; women will cover three).
Augusta is expected to win the men’s team title, which would be its fourth in the past five years. The Jaguars have fared well this fall and most recently finished runner-up to Lee (Tenn.) at the UAB Blazer Classic (Augusta did compete at the UNG PBC Preview two weeks ago, but it rested its top-7 runners in advance of the championships).
Flagler and UNG should have a great battle for the women’s team title. Just two weeks ago at the UNG PBC Preview, the former scored a three-point win over the latter, 32-35. Both teams put four runners in the top-10, but the Lions’ front-end depth (1-2-4) sealed the deal.
Appalachian Athletic Conference Championships
There will be four ranked teams from the most recent NAIA Cross Country National Coaches’ Polls in action this weekend at the Appalachian Athletic Conference Championships hosted by Montreat (N.C.) in Asheville, North Carolina.
The men’s race features No. 9 Milligan (Tenn.) against No. 12 Montreat (N.C.). Just about one month ago, the Buffaloes scored a 24-31 win over the Cavaliers at the AAC Preview thanks to putting five runners in the top-8, led by individual champion Aaron Jones. Montreat put up a good fight with five runners in the top-10 as well. Expect a similar battle this weekend.
The women’s race features both of those ranked teams, just in other spots: No. 5 Milligan and No. 17 Montreat. Results were the same at the AAC Preview, where the Buffaloes captured the team title. Milligan made it look easy, winning by 15 points over Lenoir-Rhyne and 27 points over the third-place Cavaliers as they put five runners in the top-10, led by individual champion Avery DeWolf.
The men’s race begins at 10 am ET with the women’s race scheduled for one hour later.