Division II Conference Recap: Adams State Dominates, Colorado Mines Rests

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With both Division I and Division III schools taking the weekend off to prepare for their upcoming regional championships, Division II cross country took center stage on Saturday with conference meets going down across the nation.

Here were the top highlights: 

DII Men: No. 1 Adams State Dominates RMAC As Colorado Mines Rests

With five men finishing in the top 12, led by individual winner Sydney Gidabuday, Division’s II’s top-ranked Adams State men easily won Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Championships in Arvada, Colorado, 30-71 over Western Colorado.

Gidabuday crossed the 8K line in 24:37—while flexing—to just beat out CSU-Pueblo senior Marcelo Laguera in 24:38, as the Adams State All-American won his second career RMAC cross country title. Behind Gidabuday, the Grizzlies went 3-5-9-12 to complete a 43-second spread.

The team race was touted as a potential NCAA Championship preview between Adams State and two-time defending RMAC champions Colorado School of Mines, but in a surprising move, the third-ranked Orediggers elected to rest most of their top runners, including reigning conference champion Grant Colligan. 

Mines took fourth on Saturday led by sophomore Luc Hagen’s eighth-place finish.

Orediggers head coach Chris Siemers has been ultra-conservative with his varsity men in 2018, so much so that each of his four returning All-Americans—Colligan, Josh Hoskinson, Logan Ramlet, and Ricardo Ocampo—will have raced just once ahead of the regional meet on November 17. Perhaps Siemers is stealing a page out of ASU head coach Damon Martin’s playbook this season, as Martin has been known to rest key contributors at the conference meet in the past. In a role reversal, Martin didn’t do that on Saturday while Siemers did, so it will be fascinating to see what materializes come December 1 at nationals.

DII Women: No. 1 Adams State Wins Seventh Straight RMAC Crown In Tight Battle With Western Colorado

The much-anticipated matchup between No. 1-ranked Adams State and No. 2 Western Colorado delivered on its promise as the Grizzlies won an entertaining battle 27-36 over the Mountaineers to tally their seventh straight conference title.

With Western Colorado putting two in the top three— including individual champion Alicja Konieczek, who won the 6K race in 21:27—and four in the top eight, ASU had to be nearly perfect on Saturday to keep their streak alive and show that they’re still the team to beat at NCAAs; with a 25-second spread and all five scorers in the top 10, that’s exactly what Adams State did.

The defending NCAA champs were once again led by junior Eilish Flanagan, who was runner-up to Konieczek in 21:37.

The big difference in the race was each team’s fifth runner, as Adams’ fifth finished ninth in 22:02, while Western Colorado’s didn’t cross until 19th place in 22:41. Through four runners the two teams were tied 18-18, but the Grizzlies put eight runners ahead of Western’s fifth in an impressive show of depth.

The deep bench of the reigning NCAA champs shows just how difficult to beat they will be at nationals. The Mountaineers are loaded up front, but without a superstar fifth, they are at a huge disadvantage to their conference rivals.

DII Men: Zach Panning Leads No. 2 Grand Valley State To 17th Straight GLIAC Title

Division II’s No. 1-ranked individual, Grand Valley State’s Zach Panning, won his fourth consecutive race this season and his first conference cross country title at the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) Championships on Saturday in 24:10 to lead second-ranked GVSU to their 17th straight conference crown.

Panning easily beat his teammate and fellow NCAA top-10 finisher Enael Woldemichael, who finished second in 24:35. The 25-second margin is the largest Panning has gapped his teammate all year, which is more of a testament to Panning’s elevated fitness rather than Woldemichael falling off. The sophomore Woldemichael hasn't finished worse than third at any meet this season. 

With Panning and Adams State’s Sydney Gidabuday both entering the final two races hitting on all cylinders, the individual matchup in Pittsburgh is shaping up to be a barnburner. Both men are seniors who are each seeking their first NCAA cross country title.

Panning's Lakers easily dominated No. 10 Saginaw Valley 19-55 in a lopsided team battle on Saturday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Grand Valley put five in the top seven. Their 19 points marks the Lakers’ lowest team score at GLIAC since 2011.

DII Women: Sarah Berger Returns To Winner’s Circle, Grand Valley Women Cruise To 18th Straight GLIAC Win

Grand Valley State senior and the NCAA’s top returner in cross country, Sarah Berger, nabbed her first win in a Laker uniform as she won the GLIAC individual title in 21:10. Berger, who transferred to GVSU this summer for her final year of eligibility after a decorated career at Walsh, led a 1-4 sweep for her team as the Lakers won easily with just 17 points.

For third-ranked Grand Valley, the victory was their 18th straight in the conference. Michigan Tech finished a distant second on Saturday with 71 points.

The win for Berger was a nice bounce back for the 2017 NCAA XC runner-up, as she wasn’t even the top finisher on the team at their previous meet. The stars of the RMAC—namely, Alicja Konieczek, Eilish Flanagan, and Sophie Seward—all appear to have the upper hand at the moment as individual NCAA contenders, but it would certainly be foolish to discount Berger. Saturday showed as much.

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