NCAA DI Cross Country Conference Championships Preview

Buckle your seatbelts, folks.

The postseason is about to take off!

From The USTFCCCA InfoZone: Meets & Results | USTFCCCA Scoreboard
Related: Conference Championships Central | Rankings & Polls Central

Thirty-one conferences in NCAA Division I will hold their championships this weekend across the nation: 15 on Friday; 15 on Saturday; one on Sunday. You might say, “But there are 32 championships happening in NCAA DI. What about the other one?” That would be the SWAC and it hosted its meet on Monday at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida.

Three conferences combine for half of the 60 teams that were ranked in the most recent NCAA DI Men’s & Women’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Polls – and that’s where we’ll keep our focus.

The #RunToStillwater is picking up in a MAJOR way.

ACC Championships – Ranked Teams

Men’s Poll
Women’s Poll
No. 6 Notre Dame
No. 1 NC State
No. 8 Wake Forest
No. 6 Notre Dame
No. 12 NC State
No. 8 North Carolina
No. 13 Virginia
No. 15 Syracuse
No. 16 Syracuse
No. 25 Virginia
No. 18 North Carolina
No. 29 Duke

The ACC Championships return to Panorama Farms for the first time since 2014.

Twelve ranked teams will compete between the two races on Friday in Earlysville, Virginia.

Seven of those ranked teams square off in the Men’s 8k, scheduled to start at 10:30 am ET. Two-time defending champion Notre Dame owns the best rank of the group at No. 6, followed by No. 8 Wake Forest, No. 12 NC State, No. 13 Virginia, No. 16 Syracuse, No. 18 North Carolina and No. 29 Duke. The Irish have won this meet three of the past four years, including back-to-back titles in 2020 and 2021. Fans got a small preview of this meet two weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin, during the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. Notre Dame, NC State, Syracuse, North Carolina and Duke all competed with the Irish placing the highest at sixth.

Three top-10 teams face each other in the Women’s 6k, slated for a 11:30 am ET start: No. 1 NC State, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 8 North Carolina. NC State is the six-time defending champion and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. The Wolfpack, who scored just 20 points to win this meet last year, ride a wave of confidence going into this meet having won two meets this year against stout competition: NC State dominated the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational and then needed a tiebreaker to beat New Mexico at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. If the Wolfpack are victorious once again, they’ll match Florida State and one other program for the most consecutive conference titles in ACC history with seven. The other? Itself.

Don’t forget that Panorama Farms will host the 2023 NCAA DI Cross Country Championships next year on Saturday, November 18! It will be the first time the meet has been held in Virginia since 1987.

Pac-12 Championships – Ranked Teams

Men’s Poll
Women’s Poll
No. 1 Stanford
No. 9 Stanford
No. 10 Colorado
No. 10 Utah
No. 15 Oregon
No. 11 Colorado
No. 20 Washington
No. 12 Oregon
No. 19 Washington
No. 30 Oregon State

Would you believe us if we told you that the Pac-12 Championships have been held in California 35 times? And that 26 of those iterations occurred at the Stanford Golf Course in Stanford.

Well, make that 36 – but the meet heads to Riverside for the first time, as Southern California brings the 54th edition to the UCR Agricultural Operations Course. The Trojans and Women of Troy last hosted the meet way back in 2009 at the Skylinks Country Club in Long Beach.

Coincidentally, 2009 was a good year for Stanford. The Cardinal entered that meet ranked No. 1 in the National Coaches’ Poll and topped the podium with 28 points, which is still the second-fewest points scored by a champion since 2003. Fast forward 13 years and Stanford sits atop the National Coaches’ Poll once again. The Cardinal ascended the index for the first time since 2010 and were anointed the national leader after winning the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational two weeks ago. All four of the ranked teams that will compete in the Men’s 8k at 9:40 am PT also did so in Madison, Wisconsin. It wasn’t close in the Badger State with Stanford posting 54 points, more than four times fewer than Colorado’s 225. The Cardinal has three bona fide low sticks with Ky Robinson, Charles Hicks and Cole Sprout leading the way.

The race for the women’s team title, which begins at 8:40 am PT, seems a bit more balanced with four teams ranked in order: No. 9 Stanford, No. 10 Utah, No. 11 Colorado and No. 12 Oregon. Don’t forget about No. 19 Washington or No. 30 Oregon State, either. Dating back to 2010, only one team not named Colorado, Stanford or Oregon has won this meet: Arizona back in 2013. The Buffaloes ran roughshod over the competition last year, scoring just 24 points. That was the fewest amassed by a women’s team champion since Washington put up a perfect score in 2008. Expect a close meet on Friday with those teams ranked so closely. There hasn’t been a margin of victory smaller than 18 points since 2015 when Colorado won by six over Oregon. The closest race in meet history came back in 2010 when first through fourth place was separated by just six points: Stanford 62, Arizona 65, Oregon 68, Washington 68.

Big Ten Championships – Ranked Teams

Men’s Poll
Women’s Poll
No. 9 Wisconsin
No. 17 Wisconsin
No. 25 Michigan
No. 22 Ohio State
No. 23 Michigan State
No. 26 Michigan
No. 29 Northwestern

The Big Ten Championships visit Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the first time since 2008.

Racing begins at 10:45 am ET on the University of Michigan Golf Course with the Women’s 6k that features five nationally ranked teams. No. 17 Wisconsin leads the list followed by No. 22 Ohio State, No. 23 Michigan State, No. 26 Michigan and No. 29 Northwestern. A deep, competitive battle is expected to also include Illinois and Indiana – both receiving votes in the latest poll – as well as defending champ Minnesota. The women’s team title has been won by either Michigan or Michigan State in ten of the past 12 years.

The Men’s 8k race goes off at 11:45 am ET, and no one will be surprised if No. 9 Wisconsin wins. The Badgers, who have won 20 of the last 23 Big Ten titles, will face just one other ranked squad in host No. 29 Michigan. The Wolverines were the last program other than Wisconsin to win (2017). Wisconsin has won an incredible 52 Big Ten men’s team titles in a conference that dates back to 1908 in cross country.

History could be in the making as a win for the Wisconsin men would give Mick Byrne a record-tying 12th title as head coach. That would put him even for the most ever by a Big Ten coach with another Badger leader, Martin Smith. Byrne is currently tied at 11 with yet another standout Wisconsin coach, Jerry Schumacher, who is now head coach at Oregon.

The possibility of a sweep of both the men’s and women’s team titles would be the first since 2017, when Michigan pulled it off. If the Badgers were to win the women’s crown it would be the first under the helm of Byrne.

Odds & Ends

Do you know who was the last national champion to not win its conference title earlier in the postseason? That would be none other than Northern Arizona during the COVID-19 interrupted 2020-21 season. The Lumberjacks finished runner-up to Southern Utah by three points, 35-38. Want to know the last time it happened before that? You’d have to go all the way back to 1974 and even 1971 with Oregon. The Ducks didn’t win the Pacific-8 crowns in those years, either … Speaking of the SEC, Arkansas has a nine-year streak of women’s team titles that dates back to 2014. Is that legendary run in danger? Well, right now, the 21st-ranked Razorbacks are the second-best ranked program in the conference behind seventh-ranked Alabama. The Crimson Tide is looking for its first conference title since 1987.