2021 NCAA DIII Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – As much as things change, they stay the same.
Eight of the top-10 teams from the last time NCAA Division III held a national championship in cross country reside in the preseason top-10 of the 2021 NCAA Division III Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll. In fact, the top-3 teams from the 2019 meet held steady in the first installment of the index, which was released on Wednesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
NCAA Division III — Women's Cross Country
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Defending champion Johns Hopkins sits atop the National Coaches’ Poll for the 25th time in the past four years. This is also the third time in the past four years that the Blue Jays headlined the preseason edition. It won’t be the same team that won the national title two years ago, as Johns Hopkins has since graduated its top-5 runners from that squad, including its three All-Americans from 2019 (Rebecca Grusby, Ariel Keklak and Sam Levy). Rest assured that the Blue Jays won’t go for want, as they’ll feature Ella Baran, Katherine Priu and Alex Ross, among others. Baran finished runner-up in both the 1500 and 5000 at the 2021 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships, while Priu was runner-up at the Mideast Regional in 2019 and Ross took 11th place in the 10,000 meters this past May.
Washington (Mo.) sits second to begin the season, the same place it kicked off two of the past three years. The Bears, who finished runner-up in 2019, welcome back three of their top-7 runners from that squad – Ella Behrens, Sophie Young and Gabby McGinn. Look for that trio, as well as Zarya DeSouza, Julia Thigpen and Emma Walter to handle most of the heavy lifting for WashU in 2021. Walter has the best PR over 5000 meters from the group at 17:27.
Williams comes in at No. 3, making this the fifth time in the past six years in the preseason top-5. The Ephs will have a young team, though, as they have since graduated five of the seven runners who competed for them at NCAAs in 2019. Eva Borton is the top returner for Williams after finishing 22nd overall as a freshman two years ago. Borton will be flanked by Genna Girard, who had a standout freshman year on the track. Girard took sixth place in the 10,000-meter final at the 2021 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships and went 17:24.88 over 5000 meters earlier in the season.
Wartburg holds it down at No. 4, earning a spot in the national top-5 for the first time since the 2013 season. The Knights, who finished sixth in 2019, were able to race four times last fall and romped to victory each time out. Wartburg was especially dominant at the American Rivers Championships, putting all seven runners in the top-15. The Knights have a potent 1-2 punch at the top of their lineup with 2020 A-R-C champion Aubrie Fisher and Carina Collet. Fisher also captured the steeplechase crown at the 2021 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships and finished 10th in the 10,000-meter final, as part of a strong double.
Tufts, ranked fifth, owns its best preseason billing since 2016 when it was also fifth. The Jumbos, who ended up eighth in 2019, are looking for their first podium finish in program history. Tufts has the front-end depth to do so, led by a trio of talented returners – Meghan Davis, Danielle Page and Anna Slager. Both Davis and Page starred on the track in 2021, as the former finished 11th in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the latter posted two top-6 finishes in both the 5000 and 10,000.
Here are the rest of the top-10 teams in the preseason: No. 6 MIT, No. 7 UChicago, No. 8 Amherst, No. 9 Dickinson and No. 10s Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Middlebury.
Three teams outside of the top-10 received their best ranking in program history (since at least 2009): No. 22 WPI, No. 29 Trine and No. 34 Misericordia.
The 2021 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be held on Saturday, November 13, at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park in Louisville, Kentucky.