Preview: North Central (Ill.) vies for 40th consecutive conference crown
Two teams at UAA Championships
Led by former National Athlete of the Week Drew Padgett, No. 2 Washington (Mo.) is gunning for its fourth conference title in a row. The Bears gave two-time defending champion No. 1 North Central (Ill.) its biggest DIII challenge of the year when they finished runners-up to NCC at the UW-Oshkosh Brooks Invitational. Padgett finished runner-up individually, while defending UAA champion Kevin Sparks was fifth overall.
Two weeks before that outing, the Bears were third among 11 non-DI teams at the Greater Louisville Classic and first among DIII teams. Padgett and Sparks again led the way in 15th and 16th.
Last season, NYU lost out to Washington in the team race 52-60 and the individual race a year ago as Dylan Karten finished runner-up to Sparks.The Bobcats are No. 7 in the national coaches' poll this year and hungry for their first conference title since 2009. As a team, NYU has won its past two outings at Oberlin and the NYC Metro championship, which was also won individually by Karten.
Karten is in prime form at the front of their pack. The senior has won two races and finished runner-up in another this season, most recently taking second at the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble two weekends ago.
Other ranked teams giving chase to these two top-10 teams are No. 14 Chicago, No. 26 host Carnegie Mellon, No. 31 Rochester and No. 35 Case Western Reserve.
Two teams at NESCAC Championships
No. 23 Tufts are the defending NESCAC champs, but the fifth-highest ranked team in the meet behind, among others, No. 4 Middlebury and No. 6 Williams in what has been a revolving door of top-ranked teams.
The team that has most recently risen to the top is No. 4 Middlebury. The Panthers were the top Division III team at the NEICAAA championships with a fifth-place finish, ahead of No. 17 Bates in seventh and No. 23 Tufts in eighth. Nate Sans led the way in 13th place.
Before Middlebury, the top-ranked team in the conference was No. 6 Williams, which defeated Middlebury by a slim one-point margin at the Purple Valley Classic in late September 59-60. Colin Cotton was the individual champ in leading the Ephs to a runner-up team finish behind MIT, and he was also the top finisher in 20th overall at the Paul Short Run to lead Williams to a 17th-place team finish among 47 mostly-Division I teams.
Even earlier in the season it was Bowdoin that occupied the top national rank of any team in the conference. After starting the preseason No. 5 and falling into the mid-20s, but Polar Bears have worked their way back to No. 13.
Defending NESCAC individual champ and former national athlete of the week Coby Horowitz has been the squad’s top runner all season long with wins at the Southern Maine Invitational and the Maine State Championship.
Two teams at WIAC Championships
No. 5 Wisconsin-La Crosse will try to bounce back from the loss at the Jim Drews Invitational with a win at the WIAC Championships, a meet at which the Eagles are the defending champions.
Former national athlete of the week David Stilin and his UWL crew will take on a pair of teams at the outer edge of the top 10 in No. 10 Wisconsin-Oshkosh and No. 11 Wisconsin-Eau Claire, as well as No. 27 Wisconsin-Stout.
UW-Oshkosh searches for its second title in three years. The Titans won the 2011 event before UW-La Crosse claimed the crown last season with 30 points.
No. 1 North Central (Ill.) at CCIW Championships
Two-time defending champion North Central (Ill.) is aiming for not one, not two, not three CCIW titles in a row, but its 40th consecutive conference crown. The streak of 39 is by far the longest of its kind active in the NCAA by either a men’s or women’s team (Calvin’s men have won 26 MIAA titles in a row), and the Cardinals look poised to extend it.
Three-time national athlete of the week John Crain, who was the conference runner-up a year ago, and his squad have been met with little resistance in competition this season, with the most recent team victory coming at the expense of No. 2 Washington (Mo.) at Wisconsin-Oshkosh 33-64. The top conference challengers include No. 30 Augustana (Ill.) and No. 34 Wheaton (Ill.).
No. 3 St. Olaf at MIAC Championships
No. 3 St. Olaf is fresh off a big victory against then No. 2 Wisconsin-La Crosse (now No. 5) at La Crosse’s Jim Drews Invitational 41-96, behind third-place finisher and defending MIAC champ Grant Wintheiser and four other top-13 finishers.
They are the defending team champs in the MIAC, with the only ranked opposition coming from No. 33 Carleton.
No. 8 Dickinson at CC Championships
Dickinson is the top-ranked team in the Centennial Conference, led by Ryan Steinbrock. The senior has been the top finisher for the Red Devils at the mostly-Division I Paul Short Run and the Division II & III Challenge. Dickinson was 27th overall and second among DIII teams at the former, and finished runner-up to No. 8 Lock Haven of DII at the DII/DIII Challenge.
Dickinson will have to claim the title from reigning champion Haverford, which has claimed the past three. Haverford and defending individual champ Chris Stadler are looking for some redemption after dropping from No. 2 early in the season to No. 12 at present. No. 32 Johns Hopkins will also challenge.
No. 9 Central (Iowa) at IIAC Championships
Central (Iowa) is the defending champion in the IIAC and is rounding into form at the right time.
After being ranked in the top 10 in the preseason, the Dutch fell into the 30s midway through the season before jumping back into the top 10. Led by runner-up Austin O’Brien, the Dutch finished a narrow third to St. Olaf and Wisconsin-La Crosse at the Jim Drews Invitational. Eli Horton is going for a defense of his individual crown.