Regional performances to set championship field

The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association has provided previews of all eight NCAA III men's and women's regional races, slated for Saturday, Nov. 16. The top teams and individuals from these events will create the field for the national championships, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 23, at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind.

Atlantic Region

Nov. 16  Meet Home  Geneseo, N.Y. (Host: SUNY Geneseo) Entries: Men/Women

After a season of more than two months, the Atlantic Region men’s rankings finds itself with two teams tied for its top spot: No. 6 NYU — coincidentally also in a tie in the national poll with No. 6 Middlebury — and No. 12 SUNY Cortland.

The two will have a chance to settle it on the course. Defending region champion NYU finished runner-up to No. 2 Washington (Mo.) at the UAA championships, 26-49, behind third-place Dylan Karten and two other top-10 finishers. Karten finished runner-up last season.

Cortland recently put seven in the top 11 at the SUNYAC Championships behind individual winner Nick Marcantonio to defeat No. 19 SUNY Geneseo, 20-41.

SUNY Geneseo, No. 27 St. Lawrence, No. 34 and No. 35 Rochester will look to take down one of the aforementioned top-ranked regional teams and/or build a case for at-large consideration.

The region has had a different champion in each of the past four seasons: NYU, St. Lawrence, SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Cortland.

On the other hand, the same team has won each of the past four women’s Atlantic Region titles — St. Lawrence. However, ranked at No. 16 the Saints are the third-highest ranked team in the region and are on the perceived bubble outside the two auto-qualifying slots.

Instead, No. 9 NYU and No. 10 SUNY Geneseo are the top two teams in the Atlantic. NYU narrowly finished runner-up to No. 7 Chicago, 54-60, as the only team with four top-11 finishers. Geneseo easily won the SUNYAC title behind individual champ Keira Wood and four other top-10 finishers.

St. Lawrence has a pair of top-flight runners in former National Athletes of the Week Ariel Beccia and Amy Cymerman, the defending region champion. Cymerman and Beccia finished runner-up and third, respectively at the Liberty League meet as St. Lawrence won by a wide margin with five top-10 finishers.

No. 24 SUNY Oneonta, No. 29 Vassar and No. 32 Hamilton are all also in the hunt as nationally ranked teams to potentially take one of the top two spots or position themselves for an at-large bid.

Central Region

Nov.16  Meet Home  Northfield, Minn. (Host: St. Olaf) Entries: Men/Women

A pair of third-ranked teams — both defending region titles in 2013 — atop fields with five ranked teams headline the men’s and women’s races at the Central Region Championships.

The No. 3 Wartburg women were runners-up at the 2012 NCAA Championships and have won each of the past two Central Region titles behind individual runner-up Alana Enabnit both times. Enabnit and fellow top runner Sammi Bruett did not compete in Wartburg’s dominant IIAC title performance, but are entered to compete this weekend.

MIAC Champion No. 15 Carleton is in line for the second auto bid according to the most recent regional rankings. The Knights were the only team in the MIAC field with three top-10 finishers, led by fifth-place Colette Celichowski.

In winning the MIAC, Carleton edged out No. 22 St. Olaf, 51-69., and the Oles will get a chance to even the score at the Central Region Championships. St. Olaf recorded the top two individual finishers in former National Athlete of the Week Noelle Olson and Jorden Johnson. In early October, St. Olaf finished third at the UW-Blugold Invitational to Carleton’s fifth.

Host St. Olaf, No. 30 St. Benedict and No. 33 Loras will all be battling to take one of the two auto bids or notch wins for at-large consideration.

Individually, St. Scholastica’s Chelsea Johnson — two times a National Athlete of the Week — will look to claim the region’s  individual title for the first time after finishing third behind Enabnit a year ago. The UMAC individual champion has claimed five wins this season.

The host St. Olaf men are the top team in their Central Region rankings with No. 10 Central (Iowa) occupying the second spot.

Individual MIAC  champion Grant Wintheiser led the Oles to sweep the top three individual places at the conference meet en route to putting six runners in the top 10 for a 20-81 win over No. 33 Carleton. Two weeks before, the Oles made their biggest statement of the season with a 41-96-104 win over No. 4 UW-La Crosse and Central (Iowa) with four top-10 individual runners at UW-La Crosse.

The Oles are the defending champion, but teams haven’t been able to get a firm grasp on the region of late. Before St. Olaf the region title went to Nebraska Wesleyan, Grinnell and a tie between Nebraska Wesleyan and St. Thomas before that.

Central (Iowa) enters after an up-and-down season in the national polls, dropping as low as the low-30s. That third-place finish at UW-La Crosse boosted them up into the top third of the rankings behind runner-up Austin O’Brien, and an IIAC title solidified that rank behind individual champ O’Brien and the top three finishers. The Dutch defeated Pre-Nationals champion No. 22 Loras, No. 28 Luther and Wartburg to claim the IIAC. 31-54-64-74.

The aforementioned Loras, Luther, Carleton and Wartburg will attempt to upheave one of those two top-10 teams and/or accumulate head-to-head wins.

Great Lakes Region

Nov. 16  Meet Home  Grand Rapids, Mich. (Host: Calvin)  Meet Entries

The longest active streak of regional title championships in the entire NCAA resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with the No. 18 Calvin men who have claimed each of the past 17 Great Lakes Region titles. Coincidentally, the 2013 Great Lakes meet also resides in Grand Rapids, where the streak could either stretch to 18 — or be claimed by another team for the first time in nearly two decades.

As the regional rankings currently stand, Calvin is tied atop the Great Lakes Region with No. 20 Wabash, with the tiebreaker on Saturday on Calvin’s turf.

The Knights claimed their 27th straight MIAA title two weeks ago behind six of the top 10 individual finishers, and were seventh at the loaded UW-Oshkosh Brooks Invitational.

UW-Oshkosh was a significant indicator of what could be in store in this meet, as Wabash finished just one single point back in eighth place, 234-235. The Little Giants’ conference performance at the NCAC meet was similarly impressive as Calvin’s with five of the top nine individual finishers.

OAC champ Mount Union and HCAC runner-up Manchester are two other team in the receiving-national-votes category either competing for one of the two auto spots or building an at-large case.

The women’s race features five nationally ranked teams all vying for just two auto spots, leaving the rest to fend for themselves in the at-large pool. No. 5 Calvin and No. 13 Oberlin  are in position to qualify as the top two teams in the rankings, ahead of defending region champion No. 18 Hope, No. 25 Case Western Reserve and No. 31 Ohio Wesleyan.

Calvin won the MIAA behind individual champ Cassandra Vince — a former National Athlete of the Week — and five of the top eight finishers to defeat Hope, 21-36. Two weeks prior, the Knights were team champions in a very strong UW-Oshkosh Brooks Invitational field as the only team with six top-35 finishers, and one of just two teams with multiple top-10 finishers.

Oberlin was the champ at the NCAC Championships behind four top-10 finishers, and it finished fifth in a deep Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble field.

Mideast Region

Nov. 16  Meet Home  Bethlehem, Pa. (Host: Muhlenberg)

Bethlehem, Pa., is the place for collegiate cross country fans to be this weekend. Not only can they catch the Division I Mid-Atlantic Regional with the No. 2 Providence women, the can stick around Sunday for No. 1 defending Division III women’s team champion Johns Hopkins and the Mideast Regional Championships.

The Blue Jays claimed their fifth straight region crown en route their first national title last year, led by individual champ freshman Hannah Oneda. This year, Johns Hopkins enters fresh off a Centennial title with five of the top six individual finishers, including champion Holly Clarke.

No. 20 Haverford and No. 26 Dickinson finished second and third at the Centennial meet, and will likely battle again for positioning for one of the top two spots. No. 26 Marywood — the Colonial States champion — and No. 33 Elizabethtown — the Middle Atlantic champion — are also competing for auto or at-large qualification.

Like Johns Hopkins’ women, the men are also the top-ranked team in the nation. But unlike the women, who have been No. 1 in both the nation and the region all year long, the No. 8 men have only recently climbed to the top of the Mideast Region pile.

The Blue Jays recorded six of the top 11 finishers, led by third-place Max Robinson, to narrowly edge out then-No. 8 Dickinson, 34-39.

No. 13 Dickinson had the advantage in terms of overall depth with nine of the top 18 finishers, led by runner-up Ryan Steinbock. Three-time defending champion No. 15 Haverford, led by Centennial champ Chris Stadler, is third in the rankings — just outside the two automatic qualifying slots.

No. 24 Carnegie Mellon and No. 31 Allegheny (Pa.) — with two-time defending individual region champ Bobby Over — round out the ranked teams in competition. Over will again have to deal with each of the seven runners who finished directly preceding him last season.

Midwest Region

Nov. 16  Meet Home  Rock Island, Ill. (Host: Augustana (Ill.))  Meet Entries

Four of the past five Division III men’s titles have been won by North Central (Ill.), and in all five of those seasons the Cardinals first claimed the Midwest Region. As the No. 1 team in the nation in 2013, North Central is again the favorite to take the region and national titles, but will have to do so over a field loaded with ranked teams.

Behind NCC are, in order of their national rank, No. 2 Washington (Mo.), No. 4 UW-La Crosse, No. 9 UW-Eau Claire, No. 11 UW-Oshkosh, No. 17 Chicago, No. 25 UW-Stout, No. 30 Wheaton (Ill.) and No. 35 UW-Platteville — not to mention national-vote-receiving Augustana (Ill.) — for a total of ten nationally acclaimed teams battling for just two assured bids into NCAAs.

Recently, 40-time defending CCIW champ No. 1 North Central and three-time National Athlete of the Week John Crain defeated No. 2 Washington — and a number of the region’s other top teams — head-to-head for the UW-Oshkosh title, 33-64. The Bears’ own former two-time National Athlete of the Week Drew Padgett, was runner-up to Crain.

In the WIAC, UW-La Crosse narrowly edged out UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh, 53-58-66. The Eagles had three top-10 individuals, while UW-Eau Claire, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stout each recorded a pair of top-10 finishers.

Chicago most recently finished third at the UAA Championships, while Wheaton (Ill.) and Augustana (Ill.) were second and third at the CCIW meet, respectively.

Outside the top two automatic qualifiers, whichever teams finish highly will have very strong at-large cases.

By comparison, the four nationally ranked teams and two others receiving national votes in the women’s race may seem like a small field. No. 7 Chicago leads the way, followed by No. 17 Washington (Mo.), No. 19 UW-La Crosse and No. 27 UW-Stevens Point, along with vote-getters Augustana (Ill.) and North Central (Ill.). Not to mention defending region champion UW-Eau Claire, who has won the region in three of the past four years.

Chicago narrowly claimed the UAA title over No. 9 NYU, 54-60, behind individual runner-up Catherine Young, and was runner-up to Calvin at UW-Oshkosh. Washington was fourth at the UAA meet behind individual champion Lucy Cheadle, the runner-up in the region last season.

UW-La Crosse won the WIAC easily behind individual champion Laura Mead, scoring 34 points to UW-Stevens Points’ 78 and the 86 points scored by both UW-River Falls and UW-Eau Claire.

As in the men’s race, the teams just outside the two auto slots will amass a significant number of head-to-head wins toward potential at-large bids.

New England Region

Nov. 16  Meet Home  Gorham, Maine (Host: Southern Maine)

The most volatile region in the country — perhaps even among all Divisions — will finally come to some resolution this weekend at Southern Maine with the New England Championships.

Seven of the top 35 men’s teams and six nationally-ranked women’s teams will battle for the two NCAA Championships bids at stake in each race. The remaining teams will be left scrambling for the 16 at-large bids.

No. 5 Williams won the NESCAC Championship meet — just the latest of many confrontations between the regional squads — to jump to the highest national rank in the region. The Ephs, led by Colin Cotton, claimed the high rank from NESCAC runner-up and defending region champ No. 6 Middlebury, 51-62.

Separated by just one spot in the National Coaches Poll, the two will square off once more with national championship aspirations on the line. Other former top-five teams in NEWMAC Champ No. 16 MIT and No. 21 Bowdoin — led by defending region champ and former National Athlete of the Week Coby Horowitz — are also in the field, along with No. 13 Tufts, No. 26 Colby and No. 32 Bates.

Recent history in the region mirrors this year’s parity, as Middlebury, Williams and MIT have all claimed the title in the past three years.

The women’s New England Rankings have been more stable throughout the season, headed by No. 2 Middlebury, No. 4 MIT and No. 6 Williams.

The Panthers of Middlebury were dominant in a NESCAC win, placing seven runners in the top 12 led by runner-up Erzsebet Nagy. No. 6 Williams claimed the individual title with a win by Kaleigh Kenny, but finished runner-up to Middlebury with 51 points and three top-10 finishers.

Middlebury is now in a position to regain control of the region from defending champion MIT, which snapped a streak of four consecutive region titles for the Panthers last year. MIT easily won the NEWMAC with six top-10 finishers and winner Elaine McVay.

No. 11 Tufts, No. 21 Bates and No. 22 Brandeis are the remaining top-35 teams vying for auto bids or at-large consideration.

South/Southeast Region

Nov. 16  Meet Home  Newport News, Va. (Host: Christopher Newport)  Meet Entries

Pre-Nationals women’s champion No. 12 Trinity (Texas) is the lone ranked team in the South/Southeast Region as the defending region winner.

The Tigers were dominant in winning the SCAC title behind individual winner Maddie Murphy and the top five finishers for a total of 15 points. Murphy was also the Tigers’ top finisher with a fourth-place finish at Pre-Nationals, where they defeated Division II NCAA Championships qualifier Lewis, 44-73.

Per the region rankings, Emory — receiving votes nationally — is in position to take the second automatic bid. Centre, Bridgewater (Va.) and host Christopher Newport round out the top five teams in the region.

Lynchburg is the three-time defending men’s champion in the region, but is ranked fifth in the region heading into the 2013 meet.

Centre, led by two-time defending individual champion John Kieffer, is the top-ranked team in the region. Kieffer led his squad to a team championship at the SAA meet behind six top-10 finishers.

Second in the region rankings is Bridgewater (Va.), the ODAC champions. It was the only team in the meet with seven top-25 finishers, and no other team — including three-time defending region champ Lynchburg — had more than four.

Per the region rankings, Christopher Newport, which finished runner-up in the Capital Conference, Emory and Lynchburg are the next three teams in line beyond the two auto bids.

West Region

Nov.16  Meet Home  Claremont, Calif. (Host: Pomona-Pitzer)  Timing Site

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps is the defending West Region champion in both the men’s and women’s race, having won four of the past five titles in the latter.

The No. 8 CMS women are by far the top-ranked team in the region, well ahead of No. 28 Willamette and No. 35 Whitworth. The Athenas were victors at the SCIAC Championships behind seven top-20 finishers, led by individual runner-up Adele Eslinger. CMS defeated Occidental, 31-54.

Should region rankings hold true to form, a pair of NWC squads will be battling for the second auto spot in NWC Champion Willamette and runner-up Whitworth. Behind individual winner Michaela Freeby and runner-up Taylor Ostrander among four top-10 finishers, Willamette claimed the title, 37-52, over Whitworth’s three top-10 finishers.

The men’s race is much closer on paper, with defending region champion CMS and defending individual winner Zorg Loustalet at No. 29 — behind NWC Champion No. 23 Willamette but ahead of host No. 35 Pomona-Pitzer in the all-important second spot.

Individual NWC champion Parker Bennett led Willamette to its conference title, while Loustalet finished third at the SCIAC Championships for CMS to lead them to a narrow conference title over Pomona-Pitzer, 51-57.

CMS had seven top-20 finishers at the SCIAC meet, and both CMS and Pomona Pitzer registered two top-10 individual finishers.