NEW ORLEANS -- Lincoln (Mo.) opens the outdoor season as the favorite to win the NCAA team crown, according to the preseason edition of the National Team Computer Rankings by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), released Tuesday.

PRESEASON POLL
Check out the full rankings.

Lincoln (Mo.) is the early favorite to snap Grand Valley State’s two-year hold on the DII Outdoor team crown, beginning the 2013 campaign with a 70-point lead ahead of the next closest team in the rankings. The Blue Tigers open with a team score of 279.44, followed by Adams State with 206.74. Grand Canyon (No. 3, 176.23) also stands between GVSU and the top spot, as the Lakers enter with a team score of 142.00.

A title for the Blue Tigers would not only break GVSU’s streak, but also be a step toward reclaiming outdoor supremacy that saw them win six titles in a span of seven seasons from 2003-2009, including five consecutive from 2003-2007. A whopping 16 Blue Tigers appear in the top 10 of the preseason event rankings, including defending champions senior Latoya King at 100 and 200 meters, senior Michelle Cumberbatch in the 400 meter hurdles and junior Nickeisha Beaumont in the long jump. Of those 16 entries, 11 come in the sprints, relays and hurdles.

Adams State will look to counter Lincoln’s sprints prowess with similar strength in the distance events. The Grizzlies boast 11 top-10 performers, including the top-ranked returners in the 3,000 steeplecase (junior Alicia Nelson), the 5,000 (defending champ senior Kristen McGlynn) and 10,000 (McGlynn), in addition to the No. 2 runner at 1,500 meters in McGlynn. The Grizzlies also have speed of their own in junior Kayon Robinson, the defending champ at 400 meters.

Grand Canyon enters No. 3 with 12 student-athletes in the top 10 in the preseason event rankings. Junior Shavine Hodges is the top returner for the Antelopes with a No. 3 rank at 100 meters and a No. 2 at 200.

Grand Valley State still has an opportunity to take two of the three titles this season, dating back to their cross country crown in the fall, but the rankings project a more challenging road to the title for the Lakers than in their past two seasons. Senior thrower Sam Lockhart and junior pole vaulter Kristen Hixson headline the eight top-10 returners for the Lakers; Lockhart is No. 1 in both the shot put and discus, while defending champ Hixson tops the pole vault rankings.

Johnson C. Smith completes the top five at No. 5, tied for its best ranking in program history. The program was also No. 5 in the final ranking of the 2011 season.