Weekend Preview: Time For Conference Championships In Cross Country

It’s Conference Championships Weekend!

We’re talking about cross country, not indoor track & field.

From The USTFCCCA InfoZone: Meets & Results

And, yes, we do know that it’s late January and not the fall.

Keep reading to learn more about what should be an exciting few days.

Big Ten Cross Country Championships

Date: Saturday, January 30 | Location: Shelbyville, Indiana

It feels like forever since the 2019 Big Ten Cross Country Championships.

That’s because it has been quite a long time: November 3, 2019, to be exact.

Well, the Big Ten Cross Country Championships finally return on Saturday at the Blue River Memorial Park in Shelbyville, Indiana. This will be the first time in meet history that it will be held at a neutral site, rather than on the campus of a conference institution.

The women’s race, which goes off first at 12:30 pm ET, features six teams that were ranked in the top-30 of the most recent National Coaches’ Poll: No. 9 Michigan State (2019 champion), No. 11 Wisconsin (2019 runner-up), No. 12 Minnesota, No. 15 Penn State, No. 16 Indiana and No. 17 Illinois. Sixth-ranked Michigan won’t compete due to department-wide activity pause relating to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Bailey Hertenstein is the top returner in the field, finishing individual runner-up for the Hoosiers 14 months ago. Hertenstein is one of four top-10 finishers making their way back in 2021: Abby Nichols of Ohio State (fifth), Anastasia Korzenowski of Minnesota (seventh) and Alissa Niggemann of Wisconsin (ninth) are the others.

The men’s race, contested over 8K, starts at 2 pm ET and features three teams that were ranked in the top-30 of the most recent National Coaches’ Poll: No. 12 Wisconsin (2019 champion), No. 19 Indiana (2019 runner-up) and No. 22 Purdue. Like we mentioned above in our glance at the women’s race, the 15th-ranked Michigan men won’t compete on Saturday.

George Kusche of Nebraska is the top returner in the field, as he took home individual runner-up honors behind champion Oliver Hoare of Wisconsin. Three other top-10 finishers from the 2019 meet return in 2021: Morgan Beadlescomb of Michigan State (third), Ben Veatch of Indiana (fourth) and Curt Eckstein of Purdue (eighth).

Remember: There is no regional meet this year, so performances at the conference championship meets hold a lot of weight in whether or not a team advances to the NCAA Cross Country Championships on March 15 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Conference Carolinas Cross Country Championships

Date: Friday, January 29 | Location: Concord, North Carolina

Frank Liske Park in Concord, North Carolina, plays host to the 2021 Conference Carolinas Spring Cross Country Championships.

What is notable about this meet is that both the men and women will compete over the 5K distance and there will be two heats of races. The women’s races will be held first at 1:30 pm ET and 2:20 pm ET, while the men’s races follow at 3:10 pm ET and 4 pm ET.

Coaches tabbed the Emmanuel men as the favorites to win the conference title. It was a close vote, though, as the Lions earned 76 points with four first-place votes, compared to 71 points and five first-place votes for the eight-time defending champion Mount Olive Trojans.

Five different women’s teams earned a first-place vote in the preseason poll, led by Southern Wesleyan with four. That gave the Warriors 86 points, 10 more than preseason runner-up and defending champion King and 12 more than preseason third-place team Erskine.