Northern Arizona Men Enter NCAA DI Championships As Favorites
NEW ORLEANS – Tickets have officially been punched and a season’s worth of training and racing all comes down to a hour-hour window this Saturday: the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.
This weekend has been a long time coming for all 31 teams that qualified from this past weekend’s regional championships, but for the men’s favorite in Monday’s National Coaches’ Poll, the wait may have seemed longer than most.
National PDFs: Summary | Week-by-Week 2016 | Week-by-Week All Time
WOMEN’S NATIONAL POLL
NAU’s Mountain Region foes Colorado and BYU emerged from their regional dust-up with the Lumberjacks at No 2 and No. 4 in the land, with West Region winner Stanford moving up a spot to No. 3. Defending national champion Syracuse rounded out the pre-championships top-five.
The Lumberjacks strategically redshirted two-time NCAA top-five finisher Futsum Zienasellassie and others in 2015, consequently missing the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2006 after a string of three-straight top-four team finishes – including a national runner-up showing in 2013.
With one test left to go, that strategy seems to have paid off so far. With Futsum back in the fold and looking as strong as ever, he and the Lumberjacks swept the individual and team titles in the Mountain Region, setting up a scenario in which 10th-year head coach Eric Heins could ride off into the sunset a winner in his final meet helming the NAU program.
Recent history is on his side. Over the past decade, four teams entered the championships as unanimous favorites, and three departed with national titles: Colorado in 2014 and Oregon in 2007 and 2008.
The lone exception? One day shy of 10 years before this Saturday’s Championships on the same course in Terre Haute, unanimous top-ranked Wisconsin was upset by No. 2 Colorado for the 2006 NCAA team title.
This year’s Buffaloes will be attempting to repeat history for their sixth title since the turn of the new millennium. Not only will they be looking to channel the 2006 iteration of the Buffaloes, but also the 2013 squad, which toppled a top-ranked Northern Arizona squad for the national title after losing at the Mountain Regional.
Third-ranked Stanford moved up a spot in the poll after taking down a similarly tough West Region that boasts two other top-10 teams in this week’s poll in No. 9 Portland and No. 10 UCLA. The Cardinal, last year’s runner-up, will be aiming for their first national title since back-to-back wins in 2002 and 2003.
BYU slipped a spot to No. 4 with its third-place effort in the Mountain, but very much remains a threat for not only the podium, but also its first national title in program history. The Cougars have never finished better than national runners-up, which they did in 1993.
Defending national champion and reigning Northeast winner No. 5 Syracuse is looking to follow in the footsteps of Colorado in 2013 and 2014 before it as the repeat national champion, but repeat bids have proven elusive of late for teams that don’t enter as favorites.
Three of the four programs since Y2K that have successfully pulled off the back-to-back titles did so as the top-ranked team in the field the second season (2014 Colorado, 2008 Oregon, 2003 Stanford). In the past 16 championships, only the 2010 No. 2 Oklahoma State men successfully upset the No. 1 team for its second-consecutive crown.
Rounding out the top-10 were South Central winner No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Iona, Midwest winner No. 8 Oklahoma State, No. 9 Portland and No. 10 UCLA. The Cowboys moved up one spot and the Pilots jumped up three, while the Bruins dropped a couple.
Regional championships weekend provided the biggest boost for No. 17 NC State, which was rewarded for its Southeast Region win with a 10-spot bump from a week ago. No. 16 Tulsa moved up seven spots and No. 14 Colorado State jumped up five.
Middle Tennessee will enter its first-ever NCAA DI Championships at a program-best No. 22.
After long absences, Illinois will contest its first NCAA Championships since 1986 as the No. 24 team in the country, while Navy enters at No. 26 for its highest rank since a No. 19 showing prior to its last NCAA appearance in 1997.
It was also Navy’s first appearance in the poll since that pre-championship mark in 1997. Joining the Midshipmen as new to the poll this season was Cal in a tie with Navy at No. 26 and No. 28 Dartmouth.
Heading into NCAAs with momentum in the wrong direction were No. 23 Iowa State and No. 29 Boise State, which dropped 10 spots and nine spots, respectively.
See the full national poll below.
Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll
2016 Week #7 — November 14
|next poll: (none, NCAA Championships: November 19)|
|Rank||Institution (FPV)||Points||Record^||Conference||Cross Country Coach (Yr*)|
|1||Northern Arizona (12)||360||59-0 (26-0)||Big Sky (1)||Eric Heins (10th)|
|2||Colorado||344||60-3 (11-3)||Pac-12 (1)||Mark Wetmore (22nd)|
|3||Stanford||329||75-10 (26-5)||Pac-12 (2)||Chris Miltenberg (5th)|
|4||BYU||321||63-4 (24-4)||West Coast (1)||Ed Eyestone (17th)|
|5||Syracuse||320||91-4 (22-4)||ACC (1)||Chris Fox (12th)|
|6||Arkansas||303||83-1 (5-1)||SEC (1)||Chris Bucknam (9th)|
|7||Iona||273||94-5 (18-5)||Metro Atlantic (1)||Ricardo Santos (9th)|
|8||Oklahoma State||271||52-0 (6-0)||Big 12 (1)||Dave Smith (11th)|
|9||Portland||264||90-9 (24-9)||West Coast (2)||Rob Conner (27th)|
|10||UCLA||244||79-14 (21-14)||Pac-12 (3)||Mike Maynard (8th)|
|11||Mississippi||243||67-2 (8-2)||SEC (2)||Ryan Vanhoy (4th)|
|12||Wisconsin||230||59-10 (16-10)||Big Ten (1)||Mick Byrne (9th)|
|13||Oregon||220||76-6 (10-6)||Pac-12 (4)||Robert Johnson (5th)|
|14||Colorado State||167||65-20 (13-20)||Mountain West (2)||Art Siemers (5th)|
|15||Michigan State||165||78-23 (12-22)||Big Ten (2)||Walt Drenth (13th)|
|16||Tulsa||163||53-14 (8-14)||American (1)||Steve Gulley (15th)|
|17||NC State||161||59-35 (2-26)||ACC (3)||Rollie Geiger (39th)|
|18||Washington State||156||71-22 (14-20)||Pac-12 (5)||Wayne Phipps (3rd)|
|19||UTEP||153||78-10 (7-10)||Conference USA (1)||Paul Ereng (14th)|
|20||Georgetown||132||70-14 (9-14)||Big East (1)||Brandon Bonsey (1st)|
|21||Virginia||112||62-6 (2-6)||ACC (2)||Peter Watson (5th)|
|22||Middle Tennessee||106||70-3 (0-2)||Conference USA (2)||Dean Hayes (53rd)|
|23||Iowa State||105||78-12 (18-11)||Big 12 (2)||Martin Smith (4th)|
|24||Illinois||87||72-47 (5-37)||Big Ten (6)||Jake Stewart (5th)|
|25||Southern Utah||68||79-29 (11-27)||Big Sky (2)||Eric Houle (25th)|
|26||Navy||60||73-15 (1-12)||Patriot (1)||Al Cantello (49th)|
|26||California||60||72-26 (3-21)||Pac-12 (6)||Shayla Houlihan (1st)|
|28||Dartmouth||37||90-27 (2-12)||Ivy (4)||Barry Harwick (25th)|
|29||Boise State||36||70-22 (11-21)||Mountain West (1)||Corey Ihmels (4th)|
|30||Providence||34||81-26 (6-22)||Big East (2)||Ray Treacy (33rd)|
|Others Receiving Votes: Indiana 32, Furman 8, Bradley 6, Texas 5, Eastern Michigan 5|
|Dropped out: No. 21 Indiana, No. 25 Eastern Michigan, No. 28 Penn, No. 29 Michigan|
|^ Win-loss record reflective of results in varsity competition of races 7500 meters or longer versus DI opponents starting September 9; records in () are results against ranked teams.|
|(* year as effective coach of that team in men’s cross country), CR – Coaches’ Regional Ranking|