Slight changes in D2; D1 & D3 remain the same
By: Dan Gordon 10/26/12
In division 2 Cross Country, championship season has officially begun. This weekend, several conferences held their conference championships, effectively putting all D2 athletes one week ahead of their D1 and D3 cohorts. Several New England and Northeast teams performed well, and as a result moved up in the USTFCCCA polls, released Wednesday. The main attention in DI and DIII will now turn to Friday, October 26th, the start of the conference meets. Here’s a quick recap of all three divisions.
Division I Men:
While not a New England team, the Columbia men’s cross country team are members of the Northeast region and the Ivy Conference. Both the region and the conference are filled with New England talent, so we would be remiss not to mention the Lions, who moved up to 10th, jumping up 7 spots to become the highest ranked Columbia cross country team in the school’s history. Their fifth place performance last weekend at the University of Wisconsin Adidas Invitational was made possible because of two former New England prep standouts: Jake Seinko and Mark Feigen. Juniors John Gregorek and Byron Jones, two Massachusetts H.S. products, have been threatening the top 7 all year, looking to help propel the Lions deep into the post season.
Division I Women:
While the average sports fan knows the dominance of the Friars in basketball, not many understand just how routine it is for Providence Cross Country Coach Ray Treacy to assemble such talented teams year in and year out. The Lady Friars have certainly shown they were under ranked for most of the season, jumping from 28th to 10th in one week. Treacy, now in his 29th year of coaching, has done an excellent job this season, with the women finishing sixth out of 49 teams in the aforementioned Wisconsin Invite. If running well in perhaps the second biggest meet of the year is any indicator of what this team is capable of, then all bets are off come Nationals.
Moving up 8 spots, the Yale Bulldogs suddenly find themselves the 22nd best team in Division I. The first time they have been nationally ranked since 2005, the team will compete in the Heptagonal Championships on Saturday (10/27). The Bulldogs have only been able to squeeze out one top 3 performance at Heps in the last nine years (3rd in 2004). Their successful return to the national polls can be attributed by their stockpile of New England talent. Junior Millie Chapman has been the team’s frontrunner for the majority of the year, accompanied by Seniors Jennifer Donnelly, Annelies Gamble, and Freshman Emily Stark. While these women are aiming for a top three finish, they could snag the victory if top ranked Cornell falters.
Boston College, 26th
Only time will tell if the Eagles can turn their season around, but if the Football team goes down without more than a win, Boston College can rely on the women’s cross country team to get them through tough times. After finishing 1st (again) at the New England Championships and tying for 16th at the Wisconsin Invitational, the team slid back 5 spots in the polls to 26th. The Eagles will compete next in the ACC championship, and will certainly benefit from their abundance of studs, any of whom could pop a “big” race at the right time. Senior Bridget Dahlberg has helped lead the team all season, consistently placing among the top five Eagles.
University of Connecticut, 29th
Moving into the rankings after being previously unranked, the University of Connecticut Women’s Cross Country team finds themselves in a precarious situation. After losing a number of runners to graduation, and their top runner Lindsay Crevoiserat to injury, the Huskies lack a true number one runner. But what they lack in star power they made up for in depth, finishing 19th at Wisconsin with the help of Senior Shauna McNiff and Junior Lauren Sara. It will be interesting to see if the team can score an at-large bid for Nationals after the Big East Championships this weekend at Van Courtland Park, NY.
Division II Men:
A one point victory over rivals UMass Lowell and AIC at the NE-10 Championships was all it took to bump the Stonehill down to 15th in the polls, despite the fact that they had been ranked 12th for two weeks. The Skyhawks were led by sophomore Bryan Wilcox, and narrowly escaped defeat when some of their best runners had disastrous days. They will look to carry on their success next weekend at the D2 Northeast Regional meet, where the top three teams will punch their ticket to the big dance.
American International College, 16th
A team that relies on their studs up front to carry them to victory, AIC made a huge jump, moving from 31st to 16th. Head coach Leo Mayo must be proud of the Yellow Jackets, who garnered their highest ranking this season due to the front running prowess of senior Glarius Rop and freshman Michael Biwott. These two should be on everybody’s short list for runners to watch, as they most certainly form one of the best 1-2 combos in the country.
University of Massachusetts-Lowell, 18th
The return of senior All American Jeff Veiga has served this team well, as they narrowly missed defeating Stonehill College by 3 points last weekend at the NE-10 Championship. The Riverhawkslook to make a run at regionals, where the must put together a perfect race in order to give themselves a shot at the repeat, something that will prove especially difficult if their top guys don’t have a perfect day. Their worst races behind them, look for this team to make a statement in the coming weeks.
Division II Women:
The Lady Skyhawks find themselves sitting pretty in 12th place for the third week in a row after easily dispatching the rest of the NE-10 on their way to a fourth conference title in 4 years. They have been the team to beat all year, and behind the leadership of captains Caroline McBride and Chelsea Bishop, they aren’t slowing down. Look for Stonehill, the only ranked D2 girls’ team in New England, to make good on their 12thplace ranking at the D2 National Championships, where they will face the likes of Shippensburg, Colorado Mines, and Edinboro.
Division III Men:
Division three must be sick and tired of hearing about New England, since many of the top ranked teams outside of it are going to have to go through us if they want a National Championship. Heading the wall of opposition against the rest of the country is Bates. The Bobcats have been on the hunt this season, recently winning the State of Maine Cross Country Championships. They edged rival Bowdoin by one point for their second title in a row. Mike Mullin, Tully Hannan, and Andrew Worthham lead a ridiculously deep team that will challenge for the win at Nationals.
Talk about loaded with talent. The Jumbos are a perennial player in Division 3 year in and year out. They sit in 7th place after a fifth place finish at the New England Championships. Placing 4 runners in the top 40, they were the best D3 team. Tufts is led by Senior co-captain Matt Rand, who was named of seven runners in Division III whom NCAA.com recently selected as a candidate to win the NCAA Championship Race in 2012.
Where Bates goes, Bowdoin is usually not very far behind. The boys who represent the other powerhouse of Maine distance running usually handle themselves quite well in the post season. The Polar Bears jumped to 11th place in the polls following an insanely well raced New England’s, where they found themselves in 6th place. Coby Horowitz and Sam Seekins are the two to watch on this team, their success at Nationals depends upon them.
The men of Williams find themselves enjoying their 13th place ranking after capturing the Little Three title for the 25th year in a row. They also recently won the Plansky Invitational. The Ephs will rely on their pack running, which served them well at New England’s, where they finished 8th overall. Chris Lee and Wade Davis are the leaders of a very, very deep team.
Coming off three straight wins, Middlebury looks to keep the momentum rolling at the NESCAC championships, where they will be facing tough competition from the aforementioned teams.
Despite closing up the huge gaps they had at the Paul Short Invite, Amherst College came up short at the Little Three meet, losing to Williams. The team races next at NESCAC’s and will rely on NCAA XC Qualifier and New England 10k Champion Andrew Erskine.
Finishing fifth last year, the women of MIT look to improve upon that performance, and coaches everywhere have taken notice, ranking them as the number one D3 team in the country. MIT ended with 198 points for fifth place at the New England Championships, besting rival Williams by three places.
They return all three All-NESCAC runners from last season, so the Ephs know they count on the experience of their front runners to serve them well once they make it to Nationals. They recently captured first at the Purple Valley Classic, and won the Little Three, a very competitive meet featuring three ranked teams.
Middlebury will look to earn their 10th conference crown in the last 15 years. Although they lost three All-Conference runners from last year’s team, second teamer Emily Attwoodwill help lead an impressive pack that always seems to turn it on at the right time.
The Jumbos placed six runners in the top 20 to easily emerge victorious at the Connecticut College Invitational, their final meet before championship season. Freshman Audrey Gould has led the team all season, and will continue to shine this weekend at NESCAC’s.
This is Kerri Lambert‘s team, in case anyone had any doubts. At L3’s, Lambert won by nearly 50 seconds, helping her team to a second place finish. Lambert, who had never run track before college, is going to need some help from the rest of her team if they are going to make a statement at NESCAC’s.
After two consecutive wins, Bates finds itself ranked 28th in the country; a great accomplishment…but dangerously close to becoming unranked. They won their first state title since 1990 but are going to need a huge effort from Junior Gabby Naranja this weekend at NESCAC’s if they wish to move up.