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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.
Here’s what we learned from DII’s de facto pre-national showcase.
Missouri Southern’s Gidieon Kimutai Remains The Big Individual Favorite
Missouri Southern sophomore Gidieon Kimutai has so far lived up to his status as DII’s top returner (fourth at NCAA XC in 2018) and the Kenyan is undefeated through his first three contests in 2019. On Saturday at Lewis he got his first real test of the season, as Grand Valley State All-American Tanner Chada finished just over a second behind him, 25:07.2 to 25:08.3 over the 8k trek.
Chada was third in the outdoor 5,000m last spring so he’s certainly someone in the national title discussion. But he’ll have to go through Kimutai to get there, no easy task considering that the MSSU harrier has won six of his last eight cross country races dating back to last year.
Gidieon Kimutai Named National Cross Country Runner of the Week https://t.co/pQLQLgtBbH— MSSU Athletics (@mososports) October 14, 2019
Grand Valley State’s Allie Ludge Crushes Everyone At Lewis
Adams State senior Eilish Flanagan is undoubtedly the woman to beat in DII after finishing second at NCAAs last fall and then winning Paul Short over multiple DI All-Americans on Oct. 5, but her toughest competition is shaping up to be Grand Valley State senior Allie Ludge, who dominated at Lewis with a 23-second victory in 22:12.
Now, there was no one near the caliber of Flanagan at Lewis, but Ludge is legit-- fifth at nationals a year ago, she notched four All-American honors on the track in 2019. A great individual matchup could be on the way for Nov. 23 in Sacramento.
Don’t Count Out Defending Champ Grand Valley State Men Just Yet
The 2018 NCAA men’s DII cross country champions, Grand Valley State, were expected to experience a big drop off in 2019 after graduating national runner-up Zach Panning and losing sixth place finish Enael Woldemichael as well. That drop off may still be coming in November, but the Lakers once again appear to be formidable even without their two biggest stars from last season. On Saturday, GVSU beat podium contenders Missouri Southern and Augustana (S.D.) by 28 and 46 points, respectively, to score a statement win at Lewis.
A big part of that is the aforementioned Chada, who led four men in the top 20 on Saturday. That result has to be encouraging for coach Jerry Baltes considering that, of those four, only Chada ran on the nationals roster a year ago. If GVSU’s No. 5 and 6 men at NCAAs in 2018, Ben Zaremba (46th at Lewis) and Jacob Domagalski (did not compete), run up to their abilities, this group can certainly contend for the top prize again in 2019.
Grand Valley State Women Dominate As Expected
There wasn’t much competition at Lewis for the reigning women’s NCAA champions, which allowed Grand Valley State to bludgeon the field with their overwhelming depth. Led by Ludge’s commanding win, the Lakers put four in the top 10 and all five scorers in the top 13 to tally 32 points. They beat runner-up Augustana (S.D.) by 87.
The Lakers were ranked second in our preseason poll behind No. 1 Adams State, but ASU has yet to debut two of their low sticks so questions remain as to what their team will look like come November. In any case, Grand Valley State, with an even better Ludge this year and two more returning All-Americans in Hanna Groeber and Madison Goen, cannot be dismissed. All three women finished in the top seven at Lewis.