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DIII cross country conference weekend has come and gone, and with it we have the clearest view yet of what is to be expected at nationals on Nov. 23.
Here are my five takeaways from Saturday in Division III:
North Central (Ill.) Wins 46th Straight Conference Crown With Perfect Score
As expected, the top-ranked North Central (Ill.) men romped their way to their 46th (yes, 46) consecutive College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) title on Saturday by not only dropping a perfect 15-point score but also sweeping the first eight places. (Their spread 1-5 was just 14 seconds.) For the Cardinals, it was their fourth straight perfect performance at the meet.
Senior All-American Matt Osmulski (#5 FloXC) led the charge with a nine second win in 25:04 for the 8k course in Rock Island, Illinois. Osmulski, 11th at nationals last fall, is a fringe individual title contender for NCC. His team will go for their fourth straight— and 20th overall— NCAA cross country title later this month.
Paige Lawler On Her Way To Back-To-Back DIII Titles
No. 1-ranked Paige Lawler of Washington U. is barreling towards a second straight NCAA title, her latest exploit an easy 22-second win at the UAA Championships in 21:49 for 6k. In a race that featured four women who finished top ten at the Kollege Town Invitational— DIII’s midseason showcase— the senior Lawler crushed everyone while leading No. 2 WashU to their sixth straight UAA crown.
Her best competition this fall should come from SUNY Geneseo's Genny Corcoran, who is undefeated in 2019 with three wins by 18 seconds or more. She was 20th at NCAAs last year.
Johns Hopkins vs. WashU. Should Be Another Classic
After both No. 1 Johns Hopkins and No. 2 Washington U. laid waste to their respective conferences by 27 and 29 points, respectively, the table is set for another classic NCAA matchup come Nov. 23. Remember, WashU beat Hopkins by a mere point last fall, and the two teams closely resemble their 2018 versions.
The defending champs have an advantage up front with individual champ Lawler and their No. 2 Sophie Watterson, who was 13th at nationals last fall. Hopkins has a top ten finisher from 2018 in Caelyn Reilly, but she hasn’t been on form this season and was just 21st at the Centennial conference, 11th on the team. This could be a problem.
WXC | @HopkinsTFXC secures 12th-straight #CentConf title w/ 7 in top 10@DICKINSON_CCTF's Isabel Cardi claims individual title— CentennialConference (@CentennialConf) November 2, 2019
TEAM RESULTS: https://t.co/KekL95K5Go
INDIV. RESULTS: https://t.co/89SnWPulLa pic.twitter.com/Qs2hbNMEHw
Without a super low stick, the Blue Jays will have to rely on their depth to counter WashU’s star power. Hopkins had five women in the top eight at the Rowan Inter-regional Border Battle on Oct. 19, just a smidge better than the Bears’ five in the top 11 at Kollege Town on the same weekend. No Reilly for JHU means their best NCAA finisher from last year is Therese Olshanski (35th), so the five-time NCAA champions will need multiple runners to have career races in order to win. Fortunately for them, that has happened more often than not for Hopkins in recent years.
These teams are super close, and don’t be surprised if the national title comes down to just a couple points— or maybe even one again— in Louisville.
Williams Is The Team That Can Dethrone North Central
North Central has a sort of mythical hold over Division III that makes them seem like an insurmountable force. That remains the case even after graduating six seniors from the 2018 team. But if any squad can topple them in 2019, it’s the Williams men. Just eighth at nationals a year ago, the Ephs have been propelled by the undefeated Aidan Ryan and a tight pack behind him; they won the NESCAC Championships by 75 points on Saturday— with a 25-second spread— after losing by 26 the year before. Their spread in 2018 was 57 seconds.
The candy stripes of North Central bring an intimidation factor to the national meet, but Williams should be confident knowing that their best day will give the Cardinals all they can handle in Louisville.
Men’s Individual Race Shaping Up To Be Josh Schraeder-Aidan Ryan Duel
The top returner from 2018, UW-La Crosse’s Josh Schraeder, and DIII’s most improved individual, Aidan Ryan of Williams, are on a collision course that will see them collide in Louisville in a fight for the national title. Schraeder, who was fourth last November, won the WIAC title on Saturday by 28 seconds, while Ryan— who was 12th at his conference meet in 2018— won by 14 seconds over the weekend.
Despite finishing just 42nd at NCAAs last year, Ryan’s ascent began in earnest in the spring when he won the outdoor 1500m title. Even still, an undefeated run through conference— with a 14-second average margin of victory— has exceeded expectations. Barring anything unforeseen happening at regionals, Schraeder will enter NCAAs as the favorite, but Ryan has the speed and momentum to beat him.