DI Midwest Region Preview

NEW ORLEANS – The 2015 NCAA Division I Midwest Region Championships will be held Friday in Lawrence, Kansas, at Rim Rock Farm.

The women’s race starts at 12 p.m. CDT, while the men’s 10K begins an hour later at 1 p.m.

There are plenty of storylines in both races. Keep reading for more info.

You can follow the race on the National Results Wall, and via live results.

Women’s Race

Team Breakdown

 

Ranked Teams

13. Oklahoma State
16. Iowa State
21. Minnesota

Is this the year Iowa State finally loses its firm grasp on the region?

You better believe the other teams in the field want to know the answer, too.

Since 2010, the Cyclones have been the cream of the crop in the region dominated by states that produce corn. Iowa State won its fifth consecutive championship last year when it nearly halved runner-up Minnesota’s score (66-125).

Two key runners from last year’s championship team aren’t in the mix this year as Katy Moen (fourth) graduated and Crystal Nelson (fifth) is redshirting. It took a while for the 16th-ranked Cyclones to find their stride, but they’ve looked better in recent weeks as Perez Rotich and Erin Hooker got comfortable at the front of the pack.

Iowa State isn’t the top-ranked team in the region, though. Nor did the Cyclones win the title at the Big 12 Championships. Those distinctions belong to Oklahoma State.

The 13th-ranked Cowgirls took advantage of familiar surroundings and put four runners in the top-10 en route to their first conference championship in program history. A pair of juniors (Ingeborg Loevnes and Kaela Edwards) led the way for Oklahoma State on its home course.

Minnesota, the third and final ranked team in the field, is no stranger to success in this region. The 21st-ranked Golden Gophers won three consecutive crowns from 2007-09 and finished runner-up the past two years.

Individual Breakdown

 

Let’s get the usual suspects out of the way first.

There will be two runners from both Iowa State and Oklahoma State in the top-5. They are Big 12 champ Perez Rotich and Erin Hooker for the Cyclones and Ingeborg Loevnes and Kaela Edwards for the Cowgirls.

But if last year proved anything, the individual champion might not come from a team that contends for the title.

North Dakota State’s Erin Teschuk – the 2014 runner-up – is the top returner and the Bison finished 18th last year. Teschuk has been dominant in both of her wins this year (a seven-second victory at the Stanford Invitational and a 23-second win at The Summit League Championship) and isn’t afraid to mix it up when the competition increases.

Another runner to look out for is Kansas freshman Sharon Lokedi, who burst on the scene with a fourth-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational. A disappointing 11th-place effort at the Big 12 Championships left Lokedi hungry for more.

 

Men’s Race

Team Breakdown

 

Ranked Teams

6. Oklahoma State
14. Tulsa
19. Illinois
26. Minnesota
26. Oklahoma

What was projected to be a quiet region in 2015 with only two preseason national top-30 teams, the Midwest Region quickly developed into one of the most hotly contested areas of the country throughout the regular season.

Having finished in the top-10 at the NCAA Championships every year since 2005 and on the podium (top-four) in six of the past eight, it was no surprise to see Oklahoma State in the top-10 nationally and atop the regional rankings – a position they’ve confirmed with a decisive Big 12 title two weekends ago.

As the season has gone on, more and more teams have made moves toward the top of the Midwest. Entering this weekend’s championships at Kansas with five teams inside the national top-30, the Midwest Region is tied with the powerhouse Mountain, Southeast and West regions for the most in the country.

Tulsa and Illinois have been particularly impressive in 2015. Led by individual winner Marc Scott, Tulsa went from unranked to finishing eighth in the stacked Wisconsin adidas Invitational to move up to its current No. 14 assignment in the poll.

Illinois put on a strong late-race surge at the Big Ten Championships to finish runner-up to No. 5 Michigan. Led by third-place individual finisher Dylan Lafond, the Illini showed that they have what it takes to make strong moves late in a race – strength that should translate favorably to the 10K race distance.

A top-two finish for Tulsa would secure the Golden Hurricane its fifth consecutive berth into the NCAA Championships; a top-two showing for Illinois would get them back to NCAAs for the first time since 1986.

Minnesota –which also showed late-race gumption to finish third in the Big Ten – and Big 12 runner-up Oklahoma enter the meet tied at No. 26 in the country.

Individual Breakdown

 

Until someone manages to take him down this season, undefeated Scott of Tulsa is the Midwest’s man to beat in 2015. The junior is three-for-three this year with wins at Wisconsin, the Arkansas Chile Pepper Festival and the American Athletic Conference. He was runner-up in this meet a year ago, and fifth as a frosh.

If not Scott, could one of the most hotly contested regions in NCAA Division I come down to a battle between former NCAA Division II standouts? It’s certainly possible as Oklahoma State’s Big 12 champ Vegard Oelstad (formerly of Western State) and Illinois’ Lafond (formerly of Mount Olive) square off for the first time.

Then again, Oelstad may end up not even being the top Cowboy across the line. Cerake Geberkidane has led the team at times this season, All-American Craig Nowak appears to be rounding into form after an early-season medical hiccup, and Chad Noelle is the reigning NCAA outdoor 1500 meters champion (who’d much rather run 6K the next couple of weekends. You know, for the sake of gender equality.).

Oklahoma’s duo of Jacob Burcham and Brandon Doughty figure to factor prominently into the individual race, as will Kansas’ Jacob Morgan from the Big 12.

Look for Aaron Bartnik and Adam Zutz to be near the front of the pack for Minnesota.

Also keep an eye on Trent Lusignan of South Dakota State. He was the Summit League Champ, was 20th at Wisconsin this year, and finished runner-up in the Midwest Regional two seasons ago.