Here's a breakdown of the big storylines from regional weekend that have NCAA championship implications:
Adams State Punches Back Against Mines; Epic Battle Awaits In Evansville
What an entertaining battle we had on Saturday between top-ranked Colorado School of Mines and defending NCAA DII champion Adams State at the South Central regional. Both teams put their top four runners inside the top 10, and ASU just barely squeaked out a 35-38 victory thanks in large part to a sweep of the top two places by Lucio Ramirez and Elias Gedyon.
With the narrow win, the Grizzlies countered the Orediggers' dominating win from conference two weeks ago. ASU reinserted All-Americans Kale Adams and Sydney Gidabuday into their lineup after they sat out the conference meet, and the champs looked like an entirely different squad.
But a big question remains for Adams State. While the previously injured Gidabuday was the team's fifth scorer in just his season debut, he finished more than a minute behind the winner and almost certainly won't be up to his NCAA top-five ability this cross country season. Six Colorado Mines runners placed ahead of him on Saturday, and the junior was 23 seconds behind the Orediggers' fifth man. It was enough for the win today, but that's not going to cut it at NCAAs.
While Colorado Mines lost the battle today at South Central, they certainly have to feel pretty good about their position heading into nationals. The Orediggers had a tiny 27-second spread on Saturday and have now proven they can handle the Grizzlies' best shot. It should be one heck of a show in two weeks between these two and Grand Valley State.
Speaking Of Grand Valley State: Do They Have A Shot?
The Laker men easily won their 16th-straight Midwest regional title and seemed to do so with minimal effort as their top runners, Wuoi Mach and Zach Panning, finished well back of race winner James Ngandu in fifth and sixth. This has typically been the GVSU strategy throughout the years at regionals, as their superiority allows them plenty of breathing room to easily advance onto nationals.
The big test will be in Evansville, as Grand Valley pursues their first men's cross country title. The Lakers have just as solid of a group as they did last season when they finished runner-up to Adams State, as the All-American Panning and Wuoi Mach have top-10 potential.
Any one of Sean Fontana, Trevor Sharnas, Abe Visser, and Enael Woldemichael could be top-30 on a good day. Of those six men listed above, only Panning and Sharnas have been All-Americans previously, so GVSU is still an underdog at nationals. But this is a sneaky deep team that has a real chance at an upset.
Three Favorites In Women's Team Battle Cruise To Regional Crowns; Who's Favorite?
The top three teams in the FloXC rankings -- Grand Valley State, Adams State, and Cal Baptist -- all won their respective regions on Saturday with relative ease, and those three are far and away the favorites for the NCAA title. The reigning NCAA champs, Grand Valley State, won the Midwest regional for the 17th-straight year with a 46-81 win over seventh-ranked Hillsdale, while Adams State dominated the South Central for their sixth-straight regional win. These two teams have won 13 of the last 14 NCAA DII cross country titles and will each be right there contending once again on November 18.
The major threat to stop those two powerhouses continues to be Cal Baptist, who won the West regional for the first time on Saturday with a solid 68-84 defeat of No. 4 Alaska Anchorage. The Lancers have been the surprise of the season in Division II as they were just ninth at NCAAs last fall but have been propelled by drastic improvements from several runners, including regional third place finisher Emeline Delanis. The junior was 97th at nationals last November, but she has been among the very best runners in the country in 2017.
CBU proved they were for real when they beat Grand Valley State in early October, but six weeks is a long time in a cross country season and history is certainly on the side of the Lakers and Adams State. The Lancers will definitely be motivated as they compete in their final DII cross country race, but GVSU -- with their three All-Americans -- probably pulls out the title in the end.
Sophomore Allie Ludge, who was eighth in the Midwest, didn't run for the Lakers when they lost to Cal Baptist, and she will make a tremendous difference come nationals. Adams State has looked excellent in their last two races, but they currently have zero cross country All-Americans. The advantage goes to the Lakers.
Below are the 24 men's and women's automatic qualifying teams for the NCAA DII cross country championships. The remaining eight at-large teams and individuals will be revealed after Saturday.
|Indiana (PA)||California (PA)|
|Missouri Southern||Pittsburg St.|
|Central Missouri||Augustana (SD)|
|Midwest||Grand Valley State||Grand Valley State|
|South||Lee (TN)||Saint Leo|
|South Central||Adams State||Adams State|
|Colorado Mines||Colorado Mines|
|Western State||Western State|
|Southeast||Mount Olive||Queens (NC)|
|Queens (NC)||Anderson (SC)|
|West||Chico State||Cal Baptist|
|Cal Baptist||Alaska Anchorage|
|Western Oregon||Chico State|