2019 NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Week 7
NEW ORLEANS – The cream always rises to the top.
There have been 32 different teams ranked in the top-10 of the final NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll of the season this decade. Lo and behold, six of those teams have appeared in five or more instances and they return to the 2019 edition, while four relative newcomers climbed into the ranks of the truly elite.
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We’ll start at the top, because that’s where Northern Arizona has resided for 29 consecutive weeks. The Lumberjacks’ reign began in Week 3 of the 2016 season and has continued throughout each of the past three campaigns. During that span, NAU won three consecutive national titles and will go for its fourth in a row on Saturday, something only two other programs have done in NCAA DI history (Arkansas from 1990 to 1993 and UTEP from 1978 to 1981).
It’s easy to see why the Lumberjacks are the near-unanimous favorite to accomplish that feat, especially after this past weekend – and the rest of the season, for that matter. NAU made quick work of a deep field at the Mountain Region Championships, scoring just 21 points to topple No. 2 Colorado and No. 3 BYU. That was the third time this season that the Lumberjacks totaled fewer than 32 points to win a team title (31 at the John McNichols Invitational, 24 at the Big Sky Cross Country Championships).
Colorado and BYU are considered the biggest threats to NAU’s coronation, as the duo sits No. 2 and No. 3, separated by just five ranking points.
This is just the second time this decade that the Buffs enter NCAAs as the No. 2 team in the nation (2016 was the other). Colorado has been steady throughout the season and most recently placed second at the Mountain Region Championships behind the Lumberjacks. That came two weeks after the Buffs recaptured the top spot in the Pac-12 Conference.
You’ll have to go back to 2016 to find the last time the Cougars weren’t ranked in the top-3 going into NCAAs. BYU enters the 2019 version of the national championships fresh off a third-place effort at the Mountain Region Championships, which came two weeks after a truly dominant performance at the West Coast Conference Cross Country Championships and one month after a team title at the Pre-National Invitational.
Stanford heads to Terre Haute, Indiana, at No. 4 and continues to hold the single first-place vote it gained in the preseason ballot. The Cardinal, which is the only team to be ranked in the top-10 in each of the final regular season polls this decade, recently finished runner-up at the West Region Championships and held the lead until the final 2K.
Portland flew into the top-5 once again thanks to its usual strong effort at the West Region Championships. The Pilots, who have been ranked in the top-3 in each of the past three years this late in the season, came from behind to steal the trophy from Stanford. Actually, could you call it an upset if Portland was the two-time defending regional champion?
Two teams sit right outside of the top-5 and are to be considered podium threats: No. 6 Tulsa and No. 7 Iowa State. The Hurricane sits just one ranking point behind Portland (276 to 275), while the Cyclones aren’t too far behind themselves (270).
Tulsa and Iowa State matched up this past weekend at the Midwest Region Championships and based on the order, you can probably tell who came out on top (Hint: It was Tulsa). This is just the second time this decade that both the Hurricane and the Cyclones have been ranked in the top-10 this late in the season.
Elsewhere in the top-10, you can find No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 Ole Miss and No. 10 Purdue.
Middle Tennessee comes in at an all-time program best No. 13 after finishing a strong second at the South Region Championships. The Blue Raiders, who received votes in the preseason, hit No. 21 in Week 2, No. 17 in Week 4, No. 15 in Week 5 and Week 6 and then jumped two more spots prior to toeing the starting line in Terre Haute.
Harvard, fresh off a regional title in the Northeast, enters the National Coaches’ Poll for the first time since 2013. The Crimson put three runners in the top-5 this past weekend as it beat now-No. 15 Iona and now-No. 18 Syracuse in Buffalo, New York.
Be sure to check back later this week as we’ll have much more about the 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, which are set to take place on Saturday, November 23, at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Indiana.