Updated: Jan 13
Written by Garrett Zatlin
In Division Two, the parity between the top teams in the nation is lacking, as only a handful of squads hold a majority of the power in the NCAA. However, one team that has slowly progressed into the upper echelon of the D2 ranks is the Michigan Tech women. The team has had a handful of individual standouts as of late and showed promising results on the cross country course last fall. In 2019, they should not be dismissed...
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The Huskies kicked off their 2018 cross country season at Spartan Invitational at Michigan State. Admittedly, it was tough to get a gauge of how well the team performed given the unique mix of D1 and D2 talent in the field. The end result would be Michigan Tech finishing 6th overall behind a strong Hillsdale team among a handful of other mid-major Division One programs.
The Michigan Tech women put together a scoring five that earned finishes of 26-37-47-51-53 in the team scoring which was enough to edge out GLIAC rival Saginaw Valley by five points. Fast forward to Roy Griak, and their performances only improved. The Huskies snagged a 4th place finish in the D2 standings, significantly ahead of 5th place Northern Michigan, but 28 points behind a very strong UCCS team. Still, the team displayed a pair of strong low-sticks in Emily Byrd and Liz Block who gave the Huskies additional scoring potency at the front of the race. The rest of the Michigan Tech lineup took five places between 38th and 51st place.
At the Lewis Crossover meet, Byrd once again established herself as a legitimate low-stick with a 6th place finish. However, Bloch fell off a bit to 35th place while their final three scorers stayed relatively close together (again) for team finishes of 66-78-84. The end result was Michigan Tech placing 9th overall, one spot behind conference rival Saginaw Valley as well as a handful of other programs.
But their big-meet experience eventually paid off for them in the postseason. At the GLIAC XC Championships, Michigan Tech got their revenge by earning runner-up honors, defeating Saginaw Valley (in a very small, condescend field) by a notable margin of 23 points. With all five women finishing inside the top 20, it was clear that Michigan Tech had enough depth to compete with some of the top programs in the country.
With the conference meet now behind, the Huskies shifted their focus. The Midwest Regional Championships forced Michigan Tech to settle for 3rd, but they were far closer to runner-up Hillsdale (12 points) at this meet than they were at the Spartan Invite (34 points).
After patiently waiting for their moment to shine, the Huskies had a monster breakout performance at the national meet, placing 7th overall. Byrd snagged a huge 20th place finish while Feber and Bloch finished 44th and 53rd, respectively. With a legitimate All-American and all five women finishing inside the top 100 (in the team scoring) it was no surprise that Michigan Tech ended up in 7th.
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In 2019, Michigan Tech will once again be fighting for yet another top finish at Nationals. The return of top scorer Emily Byrd will be huge for the team, but the loss of Liz Bloch will be a tough pill to swallow.
Luckily, the Huskies have the luxury of bringing back most of their depth. Feben proved at Nationals that she could provide a similar level of scoring as Bloch while the rest of the lineup gained valuable experience. The trio of Bollini, Huggins, and Homes are a respectable back three, but they will need to make notable improvements if this is going to be team that gets on the podium.
Despite the minor imperfections, the Michigan Tech women have the making a top 10 team spot nationally and we expect them to show that this fall...
Written by Grace McLaughlin
UCCS been on the rise for the past few years, highlighted by an 11th place finish at Nationals last year. Their momentum isn’t slowing down going into the 2019 season. Led by senior and 2018 All-American Kayla Wooten, the Mountain Lions come in at #8 in our rankings.
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Last fall, the team started off with a 1st place finish at the UCCS Rust Buster 5k. They were able to score 34 points and have only a 52 second spread - and that's not including 2nd place finisher Hannah Ellis who raced unattached.
Kayla Wooten set herself up for a great season by winning the race in a new course record of 18:23. Not far behind Wooten and Ellis was Katie Novak in 7th, Layla Almastri in 9th, Maia Austin in 10th, Lexie Greitzer in 11th, Molly Weir in 13th, and Meg Super in 14th to round out their top seven. In their first race, it was clear that they were already better than what they had done a year prior.
The next big race for UCCS was the Roy Griak. They placed 3rd overall in the D2 standings with Kayla Wooten coming out on top once again. Behind Wooten was freshman Hannah Ellis in 7th, Katie Novak in 28th, Molly Weir in 33rd, Elinor Enderle in 34th, Natalie Church in 46th. The Mountain Lions excelled at pack running in this race and they showed they could keep up with some of the top D2 teams thanks to their elite low-sticks who kept them competitive in large, overwhelming fields.
At the RMAC Championship UCCS placed 5th overall as a team in what was still a respectable finish. Wooten placed 10th, followed by Ellis in 17th, Novak in 47th, Weir in 49th, and Enderle in 53rd. 5th place at their conference meet may have seemed disappointing for such a high-caliber team, but the RMAC is absolutely stacked with four of the top 11 teams at Nationals last year coming out of the conference. The Mountain Lions showed their consistency as they pulled off yet another good performance entering the post season.
At the South Central Regional Championships, the team placed 4th in what was basically another RMAC championship meet behind Adams State, Western Colorado, and Colorado School of Mines. Wooten placed 7th, followed by Ellis in 27th, Novak in 31st, Guzman in 38th, Church in 46th, Weir in 47th, and Enderle in 66th. Their consistent low-stick runners and success throughout the season easily earned them a spot to Nationals.
The Mountain Lions were overlooked last season. At the regional meet, UCCS was ranked at #25 in the USTFCCCA rankings, but the team ended the season by placing 11th at the NCAA Championships. Wooten earned herself a top 10 finish by placing 8th overall and proving to the rest of the country that she was one of the top talents in Division Two. Ellis placed 104th while Novak finished 123rd, Church in 132nd, and Guzman in 150th.
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UCCS ended their season on a high note, but will likely be motivated to improve this year. They return five of their top seven and have several ladies on the roster who can easily fill those two spots.
The Mountain Lions may be one of the best pack running teams in the country. Behind Wooten, their bottom four scorers were relatively close together in every race. Having that scoring consistency alongside a top-tier low-stick is what makes this team standout.
Now, admittedly, there are some minor concerns. Wooten is coming off of an injury and we're not 100% sure where her health is right now. We also don't know what the experience level for the rest of this UCCS lineup is going to be like. We are expecting a handful of sophomores inside their top seven this fall.
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Even so, the Mountain Lions are no longer an underdog team as they have now made a name for themselves on the national stage. If they can stay consistent, build confidence off of last season, and keep up their amazing pack running, UCCS will place in the top 10 at Nationals.