By: Kyle Markley
Cross country season is finally here. Its the time of year where runners from across the country see their hard work and summer miles pay off. At the collegiate level, runners are chasing two goals: personal bests and national championships. This article will highlight a few predictions for this upcoming season for NCAA Div. I, II, III as well as the NAIA and NJCAA. So, put on your oven mitts because these takes are going to be red hot.
NCAA Div. I
1. NAU men will win their 5th title in 6 years.
This one doesn’t come as much of a shocker due to their preseason number 1 ranking. NAU has built a dynasty with their dominance over the competition and look poised to continue their success as they return five of their top seven from last years National’s squad. This team is proving it has more depth than the Alabama football team, which makes it the team to beat this season.
2. NC State Women will win the team championship.
This upset will not be as easy after watching BYU’s dominant performance at Nationals last March. But what is a wolf’s greatest strength? The pack!! NC State has shown potential with this strategy, and now it can combine that experience with the momentum from last season to roll through the NCAA. So, if you’re racing against the NC State ladies this fall and see a lone wolf, chances are the pack isn’t far behind. After all, it takes five to win the championship, not one.
3. Michigan State will have a top ten finisher in the men’s and women’s race.
Shout out the Spartans! Morgan Beadlescomb and Jenna Magness are two dark horse contenders for the individual title this season. They have been quietly building two of the strongest resumes of anyone in this year’s field. Magness finished 7th at indoor nationals in the 5000m, 16th at cross country nationals two days later, and 4th in the 5000m at outdoor nationals. Beadlescomb finished 3rd at indoors in the 5000m, 33rd at cross country nationals two days later, 8th at outdoor nationals in the 5000m, and 6th in the Olympic Trials final of the 5000m. Overall, these two are a force to be reckoned with so watch for Sparty come championship season.
NCAA Div. II
1. Grand Valley State University will win the men’s and women’s team titles.
The Lakers are looking to repeat the sweep they achieved back in 2018. You can never count out the Laker’s with the success they’ve achieved under head coach Jerry Baltes. The men’s team won the championship in 2018 and the women in 2018, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2010. This team always has the anchors up and ready to set sail on another championship season.
2. There will be a Colorado sweep for 2nd thru 4th place team finish in the men’s race.
This might come as a cold take compared to a hot one, but none the less is still a good one. The Colorado teams have dominated the team scoring battle for the past several years. This being the case, I can’t help but believe this season is going to be as well. There is something about that thin air that brings out the best in their runners. But the question is what order will they finish?
3. The women’s team champion will also have the individual team champion.
History has shown that the last two team champions also have had the individual champion. With Stephanie Cotter and Adam State winning in 2019 and Sarah Berger and GVSU in 2018. Call me crazy but if you find the fastest women in the race come November, chances are her team will also win the team title.
NCAA Div. III
1. Pomona-Pitzer Repeats as Men’s team champs.
The defending cross country champions are looking to make a statement this fall by repeating as champions. They are returning four of their runners from last season and will be competing on the same course they won at in 2019. Keep your eyes out for the orange and blue to be at the top of the podium this fall.
2. Joe Freiburger wins the individual men’s title.
Freiburger finished 22nd in the 2019 cross country championship but has since built a strong resume finishing 4th and 5th in the 10k and 5k at outdoor nationals this spring. Freiburger will use that momentum he has built to be the best in Div. III in Louisville this season.
3. Washington Women will upset John Hopkins for the team title.
The team champion from 2018 is currently ranked 2nd in the latest preseason poll behind returning champion John Hopkins. But the Bears are returning three of their top seven from last year’s roster with Elle Behrens, Sophie Young, and Gabby McGinn. These three bring the experience and determination needed to get the hard-fought win.
1. Francis (Ill.) women repeat as team champions.
St. Francis is returning their entire top seven from last years National Championship team. This gives the team the expertise and knowledge of what it takes to win back-to-back titles.
2. Taylor men win the team title.
Taylor is returning at least four of their top seven from last season including their top runner, Alex Helmuth. Bringing back this much experience will give the Trojans the edge they need to win back-to-back titles.
NJCAA Div. I
1. Kelvin Bungei Repeats as National Champion.
Bungei returns as the defending cross country national champion. He also won the 1500m and the steeplechase last May at Nationals. With this success early on in his career Bungei looks to add another trophy to the case and build his resume further.
NJCAA Div II
1. Cowley College men win the team title.
Cowley is returning four of their top seven from last year’s 3rd place team, including their top two finishers who placed 2nd and 3rd at nationals. The team will look to build on this talent to take the top spot this season.
2. Heartland Women win the team title.
The runner up from last season looks to overtake the division with the help of their experienced 2nd place team from last season. This team returns four of their top five looking to improve this season.
NCJAA Div. III
1. Joliet Junior College will sweep the team titles this season.
Joliet looks to take home all the hardware this season. Their depth is arguable one of the best in their division, bringing back five of the men and six of the women from last year’s team. The men are looking to defend their championship while the women look to improve on their second-place finish from last season.
Drop in the comments who you pick to win it all this year!