Weekend Preview: Championship Season Begins; High-Caliber Racing Awaits

Welcome to the postseason in collegiate cross country!

We can’t believe it, either. Time flies when you’re running fast.

From The USTFCCCA InfoZoneMeets & Results | USTFCCCA Scoreboard

Conference Championships Weekend is on the menu for NCAA Division II, as we’ll see athletes and teams vie for conference glory in 22 leagues over the next few days. Nine different conferences have multiple ranked teams in their coffers, but we’ll preview two that have the most intrigue.

Also, we’ll see an action-packed meet in Grand Rapids, Michigan: Aquinas College hosts the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge with 33 teams that were either ranked or received votes in the most recent NAIA National Coaches’ Polls.

Keep reading to find out more about this weekend!

RMAC Cross Country Championships

Date: Saturday, October 23 | Location: Golden, Colorado

How could we NOT feature the RMAC Championships?

A total of 11 top-20 programs from the most recent NCAA Division II Cross Country Polls will converge on the Applewood Golf Course in Golden, Colorado. Read that again: 11!

RMAC Ranked Teams – National Coaches’ Polls

Men’s Teams
Women’s Teams
No. 1 Colo. School of Mines
No. 1 Adams State
No. 3 Adams State
No. 4 Colo. School of Mines
No. 5 Colorado Christian
No. 6 UC-Colorado Springs
No. 10 Western Colorado
No. 7 CSU Pueblo
No. 13 UC-Colorado Springs
No. 10 Western Colorado
No. 19 Colorado Christian

The women’s 6k is first on the course at 10:40 am MT (12:40 pm ET) with six of those 11 top-20 programs: No. 1 Adams State, No. 4 Colorado School of Mines, No. 6 UC-Colorado Springs, No. 7 CSU Pueblo, No. 10 Western Colorado and No. 19 Colorado Christian. The top-ranked Grizzlies are the obvious headliner, but there are also four other top-10 teams in the mix, including the 10th-ranked, reigning champion Mountaineers.

Adams State has been dominant at this meet over the years, winning eight consecutive titles between 2012 and 2019. Western Colorado managed to end that streak last year as it cruised to a 19-point win over Colorado School of Mines (The Grizzlies finished fourth). When was the last time that a team not named Adams State or Western Colorado won the women’s team title at the RMAC Championships? Try 1982, when the meet wasn’t held.

The men’s 8k toes the starting line at 11:30 am MT (1:30 pm ET) with the five remaining top-20 programs: co-No. 1 Colorado School of Mines, No. 3 Adams State, No. 5 Colorado Christian, No. 10 Western Colorado and No. 13 UC-Colorado Springs. The top-ranked, two-time defending champion Orediggers, who have won four of the past five titles, headline the group and have looked strong in 2021, but you can never discount the perennial Grizzlies or the upstart Cougars.

Adams State, winner of back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, broke up the Colorado School of Mines attempt at a five-peat in 2018. Outside of the Grizzlies and the Orediggers, Western Colorado was the last team to top the podium way back in 2013 (The Mountaineers also won in 2011).

GLVC Cross Country Championships

Date: Saturday, October 23 | Location: Romeoville, Illinois

There aren’t clear-cut favorites in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

Sure, Southern Indiana has both top-ranked teams in the field with the 12th-ranked women and the 13th-ranked men, but if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that the team titles are truly up for grabs when the gun goes off to start the respective races.

Lewis and Southwest Baptist are the reigning men’s and women’s champion, respectively, after a strange season where the GLVC Championships held an “A” race and a “B” race following pre-championship qualifying procedures due to COVID-19 protocols. The Flyers won by just six points over Southern Indiana, while the Bearcats took the crown by 19 points over Drury.

Lo and behold, Lewis and Southwest Baptist are the next two highest-ranked programs for their respective gender. The Flyers come in ranked No. 16 as the only other ranked squad in the field, while the Bearcats hold down the No. 14 spot in the Women’s National Coaches’ Poll, one spot behind the Screaming Eagles and four spots ahead of the 18th-ranked Lewis women.

The GLVC Championships open with the 38th annual women’s 6k at 10 am CT, followed by the 43rd running of the men’s 8k at 11 am CT.

NAIA Great Lakes Challenge

Date: Saturday, October 23 | Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan

The NAIA Great Lakes Challenge, hosted by Aquinas (Mich.) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has quickly developed into one of the strongest regular-season meets on the NAIA calendar.

Check out the stacked nature of the 2021 meet, which takes place this weekend.

It Will Be Grand In Grand Rapids!
CLICK HERE to see all of the ranked teams at the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge!

Top-30 Programs At NAIA Great Lakes Challenge

Men’s Teams
Women’s Teams
No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan
No. 1 St. Francis (Ill.)
No. 2 Saint Mary (Kan.)
No. 3 Cornerstone (Mich.)
No. 3 St. Francis (Ill.)
No. 4 Taylor (Ind.)
No. 5 Taylor (Ind.)
No. 5 Saint Mary (Kan.)
No. 10 Cornerstone (Mich.)
No. 7 Aquinas (Mich.)
No. 11 Huntington (Ind.)
No. 13 Olivet Nazerene (Ill.)
No. 15 Olivet Nazerene (Ill.)
No. 15 Indiana Wesleyan
No. 18 Shawnee State (Ohio)
No. 17 St. Francis (Ind.)
No. 20 Michigan-Dearborn
No. 19 Huntington (Ind.)
No. 22 Grace (Ind.)
No. 23 Aquinas (Mich.)
No. 25 Grand View (Iowa)

Count that up and you’ll see a total of 21 teams that were ranked in the most recent NAIA Cross Country National Coaches’ Polls. That doesn’t even include seven men’s teams or five women’s teams who received votes in Week 3.

It’s nearly impossible to decipher which race could be more impactful.

The Men’s Maroon Division, first on the course at 10 am ET, features four top-5 programs – No. 1 Indiana Wesleyan, No. 2 Saint Mary (Kan.), No. 3 St. Francis (Ill.) and No. 5 Taylor (Ind.) – in addition to No. 10 Cornerstone (Mich.), among others.

The Women’s Maroon Division, next on the course at 11 am ET, also includes four top-5 programs – No. 1 St. Francis (Ill.), No. 3 Cornerstone (Mich.), No. 4 Taylor (Ind.) and No. 5 Saint Mary (Kan.) – in addition to No. 7 Aquinas (Mich.), among others.

Both top-ranked teams enter the NAIA Great Lakes Challenge on a roll: Indiana Wesleyan most recently swept the proceedings at the Bethel XC Invitational (Actually, the Wildcats took each of the top-7 spots); St. Francis (Ill.) tested its strength against notable NCAA programs in the Gold Race at the Live in the Lou Cross Country Classic and finished 14th in a loaded field.

The last time we saw a meet of this caliber was back on September 17 when Taylor hosted the Ray Bullock Invitational on the TUXC Farm. Then-No. 1 Taylor (Ind.) won the men’s team title by eight points over then-No. 8 St. Francis (Ill.), while still-top-ranked St. Francis (Ill.) toppled then-No. 14 Cornerstone (Mich.) and then-No. 2 Taylor (Ind.) for the women’s team title.