Meet Recap: 2020 NJCAA DII Cross Country Championships

Champions were crowned on Saturday at the 2020 NJCAA Division II Cross Country Championships in Fort Dodge, Iowa. This marked the first time since 2003 that championships were held at the NJCAA Division II level and both races truly stole the show.

North Iowa Area CC‘s men and Cowley College‘s women swept their respective gender’s titles in extremely close races at the Lakeside Municipal Golf Course.

Keep reading to find out what happened!

2020 NJCAA DII CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS – FINAL STANDINGS

Men’s Teams
Points
Women’s Teams
Points
No. 2 North Iowa Area CC
57
No. 1 Cowley College
68
No. 3 Allen CC
68
No. 2 Heartland CC
71
No. 1 Cowley College
70
No. 3 Hawkeye CC
103
No. 5 Daytona State
120
No. 4 Grand Rapids CC
125
No. 7 Heartland CC
146
No. 5 St. Clair County CC
178

Men’s Race

The top-3 teams in the Pre-Championships Edition of the National Coaches’ Poll were locked in a three-way tie for first place at the 4 mile split: No. 1 Cowley College, No. 2 North Iowa Area CC and No. 3 Allen (Kan.) CC. It’s almost like it was scripted that way (We can assure you it wasn’t).

When the dust settled following the final race of the afternoon, the Trojans stood tall as they pulled away down the stretch. NIACC put 11 points between themselves and the eventual runner-up Red Devils and 13 points between themselves and the eventual third-place Tigers.

Individual champion Melvin Kipkemboi led the Trojans on Saturday as he covered the 8K tract in 24:58.77. The freshman outkicked three other men for the title in the final 800 meters and gave NIACC an all-important low stick. Kipkemboi was one of four Trojans in the top-15, as he was joined by Jorge Ruiz (sixth), Vicente Correia (11th) and Jalen Petersen (12th).

Allen CC didn’t have a runner in the top-5, but finished as the only team with its entire scoring lineup in the top-20. Brig Merritt and Henos Andebrhan led the way in eighth and ninth place, respectively.

Cowley College saw a strong effort out of its top-2 runners: Adrian Diaz-Lopez and Amos Pkiach. Diaz-Lopez finished as the individual runner-up — just three seconds behind Kipkemboi — and Pkiach took third overall. Xoel Rodriguez-Abad was the only other Tiger in the top-20 at 19th.

No. 5 Daytona State College and No. 7 Heartland (Ill.) CC finished fourth and fifth in the team standings, respectively. Andy Martinez had the best finish out of the those two programs for the Falcons in fourth.

Women’s Race

No. 1 Cowley College and No. 2 Heartland (Ill.) CC waged an epic battle over the 5K tract at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course on Saturday.

Just take a look at where they stood at each split leading up to the finish.

  • 1 Mile – Heartland 72, Cowley 85
  • 2 Mile – Heartland 66, Cowley 69
  • 2.25 Mile – Heartland 68, Cowley 70
  • 2.75 Mile – Cowley 69, Heartland 69

If the race was scored with just four athletes, Cowley College would have romped to the crown with 32 points, compared to Heartland (Ill.)’s 50 (Lubna Suied took top individual honors for Cowley in 18:30.42). But cross country is scored out to the fifth runner and both teams had to play the waiting game to find out where the Tigers’ last scorer would finish, especially after the Hawks’ fifth came through in the 21st scoring position (27th overall), giving them 71 points.

If Cowley College’s eventual fifth runner (Sierra Saenz) added anything more than 40 points to the team’s tally, it would be Heartland (Ill.)’s crown in its first year as a program. Instead, Saenz came through in 43rd place for 36 team points and sent the Tigers to their second national title in program history.

Third-ranked Hawkeye (Iowa) CC proved to be the best of the rest with and finished true to its pre-meet rank in third place with 103 points. Ryann Portch and Kaylee Leicht both finished in the top-10 for the RedTails in fifth and seventh, respectively.

No. 4 Grand Rapids (Mich.) CC and No. 5 St. Clair County (Mich.) CC rounded out the top-5 with 125 points and 178 points, respectively.