2019 DII XC Championships Preview: Mines, Adams State Look To Stay On Top

DII/DIII FloXC Show: NCAA Podium Picks

The 2019 DII NCAA XC Championships are this Saturday, Nov. 23, in Sacramento, California. FloTrack will have Live coverage of the event beginning at 10:00 am PT with the start of the women’s 6k.

Watch the 2019 DII NCAA XC Championships Live on FloTrack

Below, we breakdown the contenders for the men's and women’s DII titles in Sacramento:

MEN

#1 Colorado Mines

Region: 1st South Central

Conference: 1st RMAC

2018 NCAAs: 2nd 

Case For: The Orediggers have scored blowout victories over conference foes Western Colorado and Adams State at their last two races, the RMAC Championships and South Central region. They have the two most important features of a championship team-- a low stick and depth. Dylan Ko is a top five lock and he has six teammates who will vie for All-American positions behind him. Mines put seven men ahead of any other team’s fourth runner at RMAC.

Case Against: Mines came into last year’s championships ranked No. 1 and they fell short of the title. Their top two of Dylan Ko and Kyle Moran will be making their NCAA XC debuts.

#2 Western Colorado

Region: 2nd South Central

Conference: 3rd RMAC

2018 NCAAs: 3rd

Case For: Western has two guys who could finish in the top five in Sacramento-- junior Taylor Stack and sophomore Charlie Sweeney. They’re also a better team over 10k-- after having just two in the top 20 at conference, the Mountaineers got four in the top 17 at regionals.

Case Against: Their depth is poor. While Stack and Sweeney are reliable, an off day by one of those two could push them off the podium. Western’s 1-5 spread at regionals was nearly two minutes.

#3 Adams State

Region: 3rd South Central

Conference: 2nd RMAC

2018 NCAAs: 4th

Case For: The winningest men’s program in DII history usually has some magic up their sleeves for NCAAs. Adams State couldn’t find that magic last year when they finished fourth in Pittsburgh, their worst NCAA showing in over 20 years. But senior All-American Kale Adams appears to be back on form after fading to 44th last year, and he leads a Grizzly squad that finished ahead of Western Colorado at conference despite him not competing.

Case Against: When Adams State won NCAAs in 2017, they put five men in the top 17. Two years later, the Grizzlies will be lucky to put two men in that space as they’ve been unable to replicate the depth for which Damon Martin’s teams have been famous for. Aside from Adams, the rest of ASU’s roster is either unproven or underperforming.

#4 Grand Valley State

Region: 1st Midwest

Conference: 1st GLIAC

2018 NCAAs: 1st

Case For: Despite losing two top ten finishers from their 2018 title team, Grand Valley State’s “rebuilding” season has seen them go undefeated against DII competition, including a victory at the Midwest region by a wider margin than the year before. The pleasantly surprising Lakers have been keyed by the development of sophomore Tanner Chada, a national title contender who has finished no worse than third place across five races in 2019. He leads a pack of five men separated by just 36 seconds at regionals.

Case Against: Only two members of the 2018 title team remain-- Chada and fellow sophomore Ben Zaremba. In fact, those two were the only Lakers who had ever competed at regionals before 2019. That inexperience doesn’t bode well for the Lakers trying to topple the three juggernauts from Colorado.

#5 Chico State

Region: 1st West

Conference: 1st CCAA

2018 NCAAs: 7th

Case For: Chico State is perpetually overlooked among DII heavyweights because they exclusively race on the west coast ahead of NCAAs, therefore facing light competition before nationals. The same is true in 2019, although there is reason to believe the Wildcats are much better relative to their seventh place NCAA finish from a year ago; for one, they won the West region by 72 points compared to 24 in 2018, and two, this year’s championships are taking place approximately 90 miles from the Chico campus. Don’t ignore the home-field advantage.

Case Against: The Wildcats have finished in the top four just once in the last seven seasons, and without a proven low stick they’re going to be hard-pressed to topple one of the four teams above that have podiumed each of the last two years. Sophomore Trad Berti’s performance in his first nationals appearance will be key; as Chico’s clear No. 1, he’ll need to deliver a strong race for his team to keep up with the stars from the top four squads.

WOMEN

#1 Adams State

Region: 1st South Central

Conference: 1st RMAC

2018 NCAAs: 3rd

Case For: The winningest women’s cross country program in NCAA history is loaded in 2019. They have easily the best duo in DII-- sophomore Stephanie Cotter and senior Eilish Flanagan-- who have gone 1-2 in back-to-back races. The Grizzlies also have four additional All-Americans who should help Adams State bludgeon their way to NCAA title No. 18 in Sacramento.

Case Against: Finding a weakness on this team requires some squinting. The biggest knock on Adams is that they came into last year’s championships ranked first and left with a third place trophy. The brutal Pittsburgh course in 2018 created many an upset, however, so 2018 appears to be an outlier on the Grizzlies’ otherwise sterling record.

#2 Grand Valley State

Region: 1st Midwest

Conference: 1st GLIAC

2018 NCAAs: 1st

Case For: The Lakers have three All-Americans back from the 2018 team that won nationals by 42 points. Class dismissed.

Case Against: Adams State is just better. GVSU has two runners who finished in the top ten last year-- Allie Ludge (5th) and Hanna Groeber (6th)-- but they can’t match the talent of ASU’s Stephanie Cotter and Eilish Flanagan. Last year’s tough course in Pittsburgh worked in their favor as conditions made for a grinding-style race, but in fast and flat Sacramento they will be at a speed disadvantage.

#3 Colorado Mines

Region: 2nd South Central

Conference: 2nd RMAC

2018 NCAAs: 5th

Case For: The Orediggers finished fifth at nationals last year despite redshirting Chloe Cook, who has been their No. 1 at all but one race this season. With Cook, and the emergence of other contributors, Mines has improved significantly compared to last year-- from just two in the top 20 at conference and regionals in 2018 to five at each meet this year.

Case Against: Due to their proximity to Adams State as a conference and regional foe, Mines’ ceiling is clearly limited to the back half of the podium. The CSM women have also never won a trophy at NCAA cross.

#4 Western Colorado

Region: 3rd South Central

Conference: 3rd RMAC

2018 NCAAs: 4th

Case For: Despite losing four of their top five from 2018 to graduation or transfer, Western Colorado has not fallen off as dramatically as expected this season. That’s thanks largely to the contributions of transfer Alexia Thiros and freshmen Alexa Rodriguez and Katie Doucette, three newcomers who finished top 16 at regionals.

Case Against: So much new blood up front comes at a cost for the Mountaineers as five of their seven on Saturday will be making their NCAA XC debuts. Plus, Western has finished well behind Adams State and Colorado Mines in their last two outings.

#5 Chico State

Region: 1st West

Conference: 1st CCAA

2018 NCAAs: 8th

Case For: A year after finishing third in the West region, the Chico State women dominated the same meet in 2019 with true freshman Destiny Everett leading the Wildcats to new heights. With Everett giving them a low stick, and three women back who finished top 100 at NCAAs last fall, Chico has the star power and depth to land on the podium.

Case Against: When Chico State faced Colorado Mines earlier in the season, they were soundly defeated by over 100 points. That race took place on the very course that will host nationals this weekend.

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