Katherine Wright | NCAA.com | September 26, 2019

The essential guide to the 2019 college cross country season

The top men's cross country teams to watch in 2019

Northern Arizona opens 2019 riding a three-year men's national championship streak. They won their first title in 2016 and have yet to relinquish it. Who has the best chance of stealing the Lumberjacks momentum? 

We'll explore several notable returnees from men and women's cross country, as well as meets to look forward to before the national championship.

Notable cross country returnees

Men 10K: Northern Arizona lost three of its mainstays in Tyler Day, Matthew Baxter and Peter Lomong last season. But the 23rd best time (29:44.3) in last season's championships belongs to junior Luis Grijalva. The Guatemalan returns as the Lumberjack leader this season. 

The annual contender, Norther Arizona (ranked No. 1 in the 2019 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association preseason poll), boasted a 2:28:16 winning time in last season's title race, 36 seconds better than second-place finisher BYU.

RANKINGS: Who are the front runners on the men's side | Women's side

Not much is expected to change in BYU's output this season, in reflection of its No. 2 standing in the 2019 preseason poll. Sophomore Conner Mantz, who finished with the tenth-best time (29:17.1) at nationals, will headline the Cougars.

BYU has never won a national title and has been runner-up twice, once last season and in 1993. 2019 might be the window to break through.

Washington has not won a national title or finished runner-up, but a progression is taking place. After capturing the fifth-best finish (sixth place) in program history last season at championships, the Huskies rank No. 3 (also the highest in program history) in the preseason poll. The voters believe the Huskies have made long strides into title talk after clocking in at 2:30:44 in the title race, 2:28 behind first-place finisher Northern Arizona. 

All-American Tibebu Proctor, who finished with the 38th best time at nationals (29:58.2), returns as the Huskies headliner.

Women 6K: Colorado captured its second national title in program history last season, collectively crossing the finish line at 1:40:37 — 31 seconds in front of second-place finisher New Mexico. Two of their top 10 finishers, Dani Jones and Makena Morley, in the championship race graduated, with the next best finisher, senior Tabor Scholl, topping out at 15th best. 

Voters, however, ranked Colorado No. 1 in the preseason women's cross country poll, reminding everyone that cross country is, at the end of the day, a team sport. Individuals don't make up the entirety of a season's success.

New Mexico fell just short of winning back-to-back championships last year but exited the season with hope. Junior Weini Kelati was the Lobos standout during the championship race, finishing with the second best time (19:45.3, 3.3 seconds shy of Jones). She returns as the statistical leader, along with senior Ednah Kurgat, who finished with the fifth-best time (19:55.8) during nationals.

Both have helped to capture New Mexico's No. 2 place in the preseason rankings. 

Washington, like their male counterparts, rounds out the top three in the preseason poll, up six spots from their No. 9 final ranking in 2018. All-American Katie Rainsberger is the Huskies leading returnee from last season, when she finished with the 19th-best time (20:15.2) at the championships. Along with Rainsberger, Lilli Burdon returns after finishing the season with All-American honors. 

Notable cross country meets this season 

(All times Eastern and subject to change)

John McNichols Invitational | Sept. 21 | 9 a.m. | Terre Haute, IN | Stream

The meet won't be so heavy on the men's side with No. 8 Wisconsin set to headline, but the women's draw has a mega top-10 matchup. No. 3 Washington, No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Stanford, No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 8 Arkansas will all be competing.

Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitation | Oct. 18 | 1 p.m. | Madison, WI | Stream 

The men's and women's selection features two top-25 blockbuster lineups. No. 5 Iowa State, No. 6 Portland, No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 10 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon, No. 12 Syracuse, No. 13 NC State, No. 15 Indiana, No. 17 Colorado State, No. 18 Michigan, No. 22 UCLA, No. 23 Virginia, No. 25 Southern Utah and No. 29 Tulsa are all set to make an appearance.

For the women: No. 2 New Mexico No. 5 Stanford No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Arkansas, No. 9 Oregon, No. 10 NC State, No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 13 Boise State, No. T-15 Furman, No. 17 Iowa State, No. 18 Columbia, No. 21 UCLA, No. 22 Utah, No. 24 Syracuse, No. 25 Minnesota, No. 26 Ohio State, No. T-29 Air Force, No. T-29 Villanova.

Under Armour Pre-National Invitational | Oct. 19 | Terre Haute, IN | Stream

This event is built to give the best insight into the end-of-season standouts. Once a full attendee list is released, we will update. 

Regional meets all occur on Friday, Nov. 15 (times TBA)

  • Great Lakes Region | Host: Wisconsin | Zimmer Championship Course | Madison, WS | Stream
  • Mid-Atlantic Region | Host: Lehigh | Goodman Course | Bethlehem, PA | Stream
  • Midwest Region | Host: Oklahoma State | OSU Cross Country Course | Stillwater, OK | Stream
  • Mountain Region | Host: Utah | Rose Park Golf Course | Salt Lake City, UT | Stream
  • Northeast Region | Host: Buffalo | Audubon Golf Course | Buffalo, NY | Stream
  • South Region | Host: Florida State | Apalachee Regional Park | Tallahassee, FL | Stream
  • South Central Region | Host: Arkansas | Agri Park | Fayetteville, AR | Stream
  • Southeast Region | Host: Virginia | Panorama Farms | Charlottesville, VA | Stream
  • West Region | Host: Washington State | Colfax Golf Club | Colfax, WA | Stream

2018 WOMEN'S CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW: Take a look at Colorado's path to the title

2019 cross country championship information

Indiana State will host the 2019 Cross Country Championship for both men and women. The events will take place in Terre Haute at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. The women's 6K race will start at 11:15 a.m. ET and men's 10K race at 12:15 p.m. ET. The events will stream on FloTrack.