Division III Teams To Watch
Sept. 1, 2009
Division III has featured a wide range of champions on the men’s side this decade while on the women’s side one name continues to rise above the rest.
The Middlebury women captured their fifth national title since 2000 last fall, but will they be able to make it a sixth come November when the D-III world of cross country converges upon Baldwin-Wallace College and the Highland Hills Golf Course for the 2009 NCAA Championships Nov. 21?
Cortland State captured its first national title last fall, but can the Red Dragons repeat and fend off the advances of perennial contenders Williams and Wis.-La Crosse?
The defending national champions will once again be in the mix in 2009. Seth DuBois will be the pacesetter for the Red Dragons after he ran to a seventh place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships. Cortland State will lose Seamus Nally who finished behind DuBois, but they do return Justin Wagner who came in 28th place at the championships. In all, four runners who finished in the championships’ top 76 return for the Red Dragons from last year.
Geneseo was a pretty young team last year, with its top seven runners consisting of three juniors, three sophomores and a freshman. 2009 marked the fifth straight year that the Knights had raced in the NCAA Championships and their eighth place finish was the program’s highest. With its top seven expected back, there’s no reason to think Geneseo won’t be back in the thick of things.
North Central (Ill.)
The Cardinals were second place finishers behind Cortland State last year thanks to the efforts of junior to be Michael Spain. Spain came in 12th place at the championships and two returning teammates finish in the top 50 – sophomore-to-be Neal Klein and senior-to-be Kyle Brady. The Cardinals will lose two top 55 finishing seniors from last year’s squad.
Edgar Kosgey capped his junior season with a 10th place finish at the NCAA Championships, helping Williams to a third place finish with 129 points. Kosgey is expected to be back for Williams and should have Jeff Perlis (26th place finisher) and Corey Watts (76th place finisher) at his side, ready to take aim at a national title.
No individual effort from an Eagles runner last year blew the competition away, but few teams were as steady as the Eagles in last year’s NCAA Championships. Paul Moran and Connor Lonning were the top finishers for the Eagles last season who return. Moran’s 48th place finish and Lonning 60th place finish weren’t spectacular, but it helped lead the Eagles to sixth place finish, marking the 21st time Wis.-La Crosse has finished in the top six in school history. The Eagles have 10 top three finishes along with three national championships, the last coming in 2005.
They may have only finished 19th out of 32 teams in last year’s NCAA Championships, but with individual champion Marie Bonner back for her senior season – along with several other young runners – the Royals could be poised for a big push this November. Bethel peaked at No. 13 during the regular season rankings last year and chances are with Bonner leading the way again we could see the Royals peak much higher.
The Knights are kind of used to being the runner-up. 1992, 1993 and 1994 saw Calvin finish in second place before they finally won it all in 1999. Calvin came up a little short last year, but they have a very good shot at being among the nation’s best once again with Laura Bergstrom, who finished 21st, leading the way once again.
The defending champs have some losses to deal with, notably Alexandra Krieg, who took home a third place finish last year. Hannah Meier will be one of the top returning runners for Middlebury after a 39th place finish. And she’s only a junior.
Last year’s NCAA Championships performance just happened to be the fourth time the Knights had finished fourth or better at the meet. Three times before the Knights had finished third or better and they nearly made it a fourth thanks to Anna Kraayenbrink. The senior-to-be came in 24th, earning her All-American status. Two other juniors, Jennifer and Amanda Kuiken, played prominent roles last fall and they’ll do the same again this fall.
The Blugold only lose two of their top seven from last year’s fifth place finish, their best in 11 years. This program has been on the rise the past few years, finishing 23rd in 2005 and 12th in 2006 before last year’s breakthrough performance. Beth Easker will be a junior next year and the team leader after a very respectable 55th place finish in her first appearance at Div. III’s highest level.