Five Upsets That Shaped DII NCAA XC

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A muddy and hilly course in Pittsburgh made for a brutally tough day at NCAA DII XC on Saturday, and that chaos helped to create an avalanche of upsets that may not have been possible otherwise.

Here were the top-five most shocking upsets from DII XC:

Marcelo Laguera blows past Zach Panning to win CSU-Pueblo’s first XC title

The Pueblo senior had never finished inside the top 20 at NCAA XC before Saturday, and in his four years he never even won a conference cross country title, and yet Marcelo Laguera used the treacherous Pittsburgh conditions to his advantage as he shockingly kicked past pre-race favorite Zach Panning in the final 200m on Saturday.

Laguera Scores Upset Win At D2 XC

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Laguera implemented a perfect strategy to capitalize on the shredded course, as he stalked Panning for 30-plus minutes, never touching the lead, and then finally striking when the finish came in sight. On terrain perfectly suited to his “mountain guy” strengths, he timed his move just right and the upset was on.

Grand Valley State women put four runners in front of every other team’s top two

If anyone was going to dominate the women’s race at DII XC in the way Grand Valley State ultimately did (41 points, lowest team score since 2004), you figured it would’ve been 17-time NCAA champion and No.1-ranked Adams State, which had dropped an impressive 23-second spread at the South Central regional. 

Instead, four Lakers entrenched themselves at the front of the race from the beginning -- a smart move on a course ill-suited for making up ground -- and held on to put four in the top 10 and completely dominate a stacked field. GVSU was just sixth last year, but a combination of three crucial factors flipped the script for them in 2018: individual champion Sarah Berger’s addition to the team, unheralded Hanna Groeber’s sixth-place finish in her NCAA XC debut, and the wet and sloppy conditions. All three factors created a perfect storm for a Grand Valley team coming off a disappointing 2017 nationals.

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Emily Roberts finishes third in her first NCAA Championship race in two years

With all due respect to winner Sarah Berger and runner-up Eilish Flanagan, the most impressive individual finish in the women's race belongs to U-Mary senior Emily Roberts, who placed third despite struggling with injuries for the better part of two years. 

Her talent has always been evident -- Roberts was fifth at NCAAs in back-to-back years in 2015 and 2016 while at Southern Indiana -- but her return to health and competitiveness was an arduous one, as Roberts was only running 18:30 for 5K as recently as February. For someone with a 16:05 PR, it looked like her All-American days were over.

But Roberts persevered, and after a steady climb in performance throughout the fall since transferring to U-Mary, everything came together in her final collegiate cross country race. Roberts hadn’t finished as the Marauders No. 1 all season -- in fact, she was just the team’s seventh at Roy Griak on September 29 -- but the tough course at NCAAs clearly worked in her favor as she used her 10K strength (2016 NCAA 10K runner-up) to lead a talented U-Mary squad that ended up with five All-Americans.

With a return to health and the perfect setting for her skill set, Roberts’ storybook comeback was complete.

Grand Valley State men beat Adams State at nationals for the first time ever

Adams State’s tough day in the men’s race helped to underscore just how dominant the Grizzlies have been for more than two decades at DII NCAAs: their fourth place finish in Pittsburgh was their worst showing at nationals since 1996. Part of the difference this season was the fitness of two top-10 finishers from 2017, as Kale Adams (44th) and Joshua Joseph (119th) both struggled after placing third and ninth, respectively, at nationals last year. According to Grizzlies head coach Damon Martin, Adams dealt with injuries during the summer that delayed his training and ultimately prevented him from reaching his potential. 

The poor conditions didn't help matters either, as 13:29 5K guy Sydney Gidabuday was never a factor up front. The senior Gidabuday took 12th, 56 seconds behind Marcelo Laguera, whom he beat for the RMAC title just a month earlier.

The Grizzlies rough day at Schenley Park and Grand Valley’s victory also provided another dose of history: for the first time ever, the Lakers beat the 13-time NCAA champions Adams State at nationals. 

Sioux Falls men finish fifth after placing a distant third at Central regional

Although they finished 39 points away from the podium, the Sioux Falls men still had a remarkable day at NCAAs, securing a fifth-place finish, their best in school history. What’s even more impressive is that they did it despite placing a distant third in the Central regional two weeks prior, losing by 55 points to regional champ Missouri Southern and 40 points to Central runner-up Augustana (S.D.) on November 17. But at nationals, the Cougars turned the tables.

Led by Mason Phillips’ seventh-place finish, Sioux Falls crushed Missouri Southern by 131 points and six places and Augustana by 114 points and five places. What a difference two weeks -- and a much different course than the lightning quick Missouri Southern surface -- made for the Cougars.

Shalane Flanagan Retires From Professional Running

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One of the greatest distance runners in American history has retired: Four-time Olympian and 2017 New York City Marathon champion Shalane Flanagan announced on Monday that her incredible professional running career is over after 15 years.

Weekend Recap: NAU Keeps On Chugging, UW States Their Case

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This past weekend of NCAA cross country gave us a much clearer picture of how the rest of the 2019 campaign will unfold. With the Nuttycombe and Pre-National Invitationals bringing together the best squads across the country, team title favorites strengthened their cases while top individuals emerged from the crowded pack to position themselves at the front heading into the postseason.

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Can The Colorado Men Get Another Big Win? | Pre-Nats Men's Preview

We outlined the big questions for the women’s race this Saturday in Terre Haute; now here’s what to watch for in the men’s race. 

The 3 Biggest Questions From The Pre-Nats Women's Race

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Less than 24 hours after the Nuttycombe Invitational, the second big NCAA cross country meet of the weekend gets going in Terre Haute. The Pre Nationals meet at the site of this year’s NCAA Championships features four of the top seven women’s teams in the nation. Here are three big questions that will be answered in the race: 

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Kelati, Werner, Monson Collide At Nuttycombe | Women's Preview

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The women’s race at Friday’s Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison functions as a preview for November’s NCAA Championships. Yes, some top teams and individuals will compete the next day at the Pre Nationals meet in Terre Haute, but the fields in Wisconsin will be stacked. Three of the top four teams in the nation are set to race (and six of the 10, and eight of the top 12). 

NAU, Stanford Run It Back At Nuttycombe | Men's Preview

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Last month, the NAU men’s team began their season as expected. The winners of the last three NCAA titles went to Terre Haute for the John McNichols Invitational, held out two of their best runners and still beat second-ranked Stanford by a comfortable margin. 

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IOC Plans To Move Olympic Marathons To Sapporo Seeking Cooler Conditions

With searing heat combined with high humidity expected for Tokyo next August, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced today that they planned to move the Olympic Marathons and race walking events to Sapporo, more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Tokyo on the island of Hokkaido. 

DII NCAA Cross Country Recap: Kimutai Picks Up Crucial Midseason Win

All attention in Division II cross country over the weekend was in Romeoville, Illinois, as the Lewis Conference Crossover went down on Saturday. Despite the meet featuring none of the mighty Colorado heavyweights-- Adams State, Colorado Mines or Western Colorado-- the race still had plenty of podium implications and individual title contenders.

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