NEW ORLEANS -– Defending indoor national champions Grand Valley State’s women’s team and the Grand Canyon men’s team are the early favorites to claim the Division II Indoor Championships, according to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason computer projections, which are based largely on the top returners from each school and early performances from this season.

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GVSU’s No. 1 position comes as no surprise, given that the Lakers have won back-to-back titles and have topped the USTFCCCA computer rankings for 17 consecutive rankings -- all but six of the 23 released since the inaugural DII rankings in week one of the 2010 season. The Lakers cruised to a championship in 2012 with 94 team points, the fourth-highest total in women’s NCAA Division II Indoor Championship history, and a 43-point advantage against runner-up Adams State.

Among the numerous returners for the Lakers include pole vault champ Kristen Hixson and senior weight throw champ and shot put runner-up Sam Lockhart. Lockhart is the top returning shot putter in the nation and the second-best returner in the weight throw.

The Grand Canyon men begin 2013 exactly where they finished the 2012 indoor season: on top. The Antelopes defeated Adams State, ranked second in the projections, 54-47 to claim a national team championship in just their second year of DII competition. Grand Canyon will make the move to DI next season, and will look to go out in style with a consecutive national championship.

Defending long jump champion Karlin Stewart returns to lead a team that returns 41 of its 54 points from the 2012 indoor championships. Junior Aaron Hill is the top-ranked returning long jumper, and junior Fred Taylor tops the national list of returners in the 200 meters.

Adams State most recently won an indoor national championship in 2010. Sophomore Boris Berrian, the 2012 800 indoor champion, is the top returner for the Grizzlies, who also lost 2012 mile champion Drew Graham to graduation. Adams State’s roster includes five of the national top 10 returning milers from 2012, and three of the top 10 returning 5,000-meter runners. Of their 47 points from the 2012 championships, 25 will be returning for 2013.