Full Breakdown of the NCAA Cross Country Qualifying System

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The system to qualify for the D1 NCAA Cross Country Championships can be a complicated one and often causes confusion for those following the season-long rollercoaster to the Big Dance. Now that cross country season is officially here, it's high time we break the selection process down and answer all of the burning questions for those who are running for a ticket to Terre Haute, Indiana.

Below is a breakdown of how 31 teams are selected to compete at the NCAA Championships.

AUTO TEAMS
If a team wants to safely qualify for nationals, it must finish in the top two of its respective NCAA regional championship. Each championship takes place on the same day -- November 11 this season. There are nine regionals happening on the same day across the country, so the first two teams from each will advance, which equates to 18 teams total. The complete chaos of this day is covered in FloTrack's live Kolas Show every year, aka six hours of breaking news call-ins from FloTrack contributors across the country.

If you like metaphors, read Dennis Young's USTFCCCA article where he explained the entire qualifying process by using the comparison of getting into an exclusive party.

AT-LARGE TEAMS
After the 18 teams are determined, the NCAA Division I Cross Country Subcommittee selects 13 at-large teams on Saturday following the regional competition. An at-large team is determined by its regional finish and regular season performances where it earns "points" or wins over teams already in the championship (the 18 teams who earned top two finishes in their region). Between the weekend of Sept. 9-11 through the conclusion of the regional championships on Nov. 11, teams can earn wins against higher-ranked teams which put them in good position to be selected as an at-large team should they finish outside of the top two in their region. The committee examines the total wins for third- and fourth-place finishers in each region, which means wins over the 18 automatic teams.

For example, last year the Washington women entered the West Region championship with more at-large wins (seven) than any other at-large candidate. They finished third in the championship behind Oregon and Boise State but were selected as an at-large team based on the amount of regular season points they had accumulated at meets like the Wisconsin Invitational.

Sometimes even the fifth- or sixth-place team can earn an NCAA berth through the "push process." This arises when the next team under consideration based on regional finish doesn't have enough points to earn an at-large bid, but the team immediately behind them in regional finish does have enough points to be the next at-large team selected. Both teams would advance in this case as long as they meet specific conditions in the selection process.

Should there be a tie for teams under consideration for at-large bids, the committee looks at the head-to-head results between competitions in the regular season.

INDIVIDUALS
Individuals can qualify for the Big Dance if they are part of a team that did not qualify as an automatic or at-large qualifier. The NCAA committee selects the first four individual finishers not on a qualifying team who finish within the top 25 of their respective region.

Check out the first release of the Kolas Calculator here

See the NCAA's manual for the full list of qualifying procedures.

Matthew Centrowitz Moving To D.C., Still With Nike Oregon Project

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Matthew Centrowitz announced on Instagram that he is still with the Nike Oregon Project, but has relocated back to the Washington, D.C. area. The 2016 Olympic champion in the 1500m attended Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland. Upon graduation, he attended the University of Oregon and remained in Oregon for his professional career. 

All The Best Things That Happened In The NCAA This Weekend

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Three collegiate records highlighted NCAA action this weekend, as UTEP sophomore Michael Saruni, Texas Tech junior Vincent Crisp, and Georgia senior Keturah Orji set standards in their respective events.

Keturah Orji Breaks American, Collegiate Indoor Record For Triple Jump

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Georgia's Keturah Orji broke her own American and NCAA indoor records in the triple jump on Saturday with a leap of 14.53m/47-8 at the Clemson Invitational.

Katelyn Tuohy Shatters Mary Cain's National High School Record For 5K

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North Rockland High School, New York, sophomore Katelyn Tuohy ran the fastest 5K ever for a high school girl — indoors or outdoors — today with her winning time of 15:37.12 at the VA Showcase in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Christian Coleman Crushes 60m World Record In His Season Opener

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Today, in his first meet of the year, Christian Coleman set the bar for his season incredibly high and put the world on notice. 

Vincent Crisp Runs Fastest Collegiate Time Ever For 600 Yards

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Texas Tech junior Vincent Crisp posted the fastest indoor collegiate mark of all time over 600 yards on Friday. Competing at the Texas Tech Red Raider Invitational in Lubbock, Texas, Crisp ran 1:08.16 and held off TCU’s Derrick Mokaleng, who ran 1:08.18.

Michael Saruni Runs World-Best In Indoor 600m

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On Friday night, Michael Saruni continued his hot start to 2018. The UTEP sophomore ran a world-best time of 1:14.79 in the 600m at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational in Albuquerque.  

Austin, Texas, Chasing History With Olympic Trials Bid

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Austin, Texas, has hosted the NCAA track and field championships and currently stages one of the largest track meets of the calendar, the Texas Relays. The city has a robust road racing scene, bolstered by the presence of elite athletes and high-level training groups. But Austin has never hosted a USA track and field championship event — not for any distance on the roads, cross country or track and field. And certainly not the Olympic Trials. 

Justin Gatlin Switches Coaches After Investigation Uncovers Doping Scandal

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Justin Gatlin has officially begun his career after Dennis Mitchell. Reuters reported on Friday that Gatlin is being coached by Brooks Johnson in Orlando, Florida. Gatlin fired Mitchell in December after Mitchell was implicated in a doping sting facilitated by the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. 

Robert Kigen, Felix Kandie Headline Napoli City Half Marathon

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Nobert Kigen and Felix Kandie of Kenya headline a men’s pro field aiming for a sub-60 minute performance at the fifth Napoli City Half Marathon in Naples, Italy.