While the top Division I teams were going to head-to-head in Madison, Wisconsin, at Pre-Nationals on Saturday, the majority of the best squads in Division III were doing the same an hour and a half north in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at their version of Pre-Nats.
The UW-Oshkosh Kollege Town Sports Invitational featured a who’s who of DIII stars competing on the same course that will host nationals in five weeks, and when the dust had settled, a clearer picture of the favorites for NCAAs had emerged.
With most of the top DII teams being idle over the weekend, DIII gets all the attention in this recap. Here were the highlights from a maddening Saturday:
D3 Men: North Central Does Their Best NAU Impression At DIII Pre-Nats
In a field that featured five other teams ranked in the top 10 in Division III cross country, the most dominant team in NCAA history, North Central, did what they do: crush everyone to all but confirm that a 19th national title will be theirs come November.
The two-time NCAA defending champions were heavily favored coming into the UW-Oshkosh Kollege Town Sports Invitational on Saturday, aka DIII Pre-Nats, and they delivered accordingly by stomping third-ranked Washington U. 41-97. The Cardinals put four in the top ten and all seven in the top 40, a very NAU-like performance for a team also looking to win their third straight NCAA crown.
If there’s any consolation for those hoping for a competitive team battle when the athletes return to Oshkosh in a month for NCAAs, second-ranked Wisconsin-La Crosse was not in attendance on Saturday; the Eagles of UWL instead finished third at a home meet behind junior college power Iowa Central and DII’s sixth-ranked Augustana (S.D.).
But it’s tough to imagine anyone topping this smackdown if it’s repeated on November 17:
FloXC No. 1 individual Dhruvil Patel reaffirmed his status as the NCAA favorite, while Matt Osmulski, who didn’t even make NCC’s nationals roster last year, ran undoubtedly the best race of his collegiate cross country career to take runner-up honors. Like always, coach Al Carius finds a way to mold unheralded runners into DIII legends, and he may have another on his hands with Osmulski.
This tweet says everything:
D3 Women: Wash U. Crushes MIT At Pre-Nats, Hopkins Dominates Geneseo At Rowan
The women’s race in Oshkosh was missing top-ranked Johns Hopkins (I’ll get to them in a bit), but the battle between No. 2 Wash U. and No. 3 MIT promised to make clear which talented squad has the best shot at dethroning JHU come nationals.
The answer on Saturday, resoundingly, was Washington U. The second-ranked Bears used two top five finishes from their All-American duo of Paige Lawler (2nd, 21:31) and Aly Wayne (5th, 21:48) to crush MIT 70-108. The Engineers ran an admirable race-- Izzi Gengaro, Leandra Zimmermann, and Jenna Melanson all placed in the top 15-- but Wash U’s huge advantage up front was simply too much to overcome.
No. 2 @WASHU_XCTF women took first at Pre-Nationals, led by Paige Lawler's second place finish overall (21:31.6) on the Lake Breeze Golf Course 6K course in Wisconsin. The Bears were first out of 52 teams competing. #d3xc #LetsGoWashU pic.twitter.com/6vrIE7X647— WashU Bears (@WASHUBears) October 13, 2018
Behind those top two squads, the Brandeis women-- who didn’t even qualify for nationals last year-- had arguably the most impressive performance of the meet. The Judges beat three top 10 teams, led by three-time All-American Emily Bryson’s 4th place individual finish, and now have almost certainly secured their first NCAA bid since 2013.
In the individual race, FloXC No. 10 Claire Lamb of Otterbein scored a huge upset with her eight-second win in 21:23. Lamb, who was 22nd at nationals in 2017, beat five other top 10 ranked individuals at Oshkosh on Saturday.
Across the country in New Jersey, the top-ranked Johns Hopkins women put all five of their scorers in the top 11 to thoroughly dismantle fourth-ranked SUNY Geneseo 33-84 at the Rowan Interregional Border Battle.
The two-time defending NCAA champions were led by junior Sam Levy, who finished third in 21:16.
Levy, who didn’t even make the nationals roster last year, had a career day for the Blue Jays. She looks primed to be a low stick for a JHU squad that continues to compete without All-American senior Natalia LaSpada. With Levy running next to Ellie Clawson, the NCAA’s top returner in 2018, the Jays will be awfully tough to beat come nationals.