NOTE: In an effort to avoid redundant analysis, the D3 crew opted to give only one piece of analysis per award unless there was a different selection or a new piece of analysis.
Best Freshman Award
*Redshirt freshmen are not included in this award
Candidates: Braden Nicholson (North Central), Carter Oberfell (Loras), Murray Bingham (Southern Virginia)
Brett’s Selection: Braden Nicholson (North Central)
Hannah’s Selection: Braden Nicholson (North Central)
Brett: North Central always seems to have an uncanny ability to develop their runners into completely different specimens when they enter their college years, that’s no surprise. What was a surprise, however, was seeing how quickly some of these athletes develop, especially in the case of Braden Nicholson.
For not even making their regional or national team in cross country, he’s made one heck of an improvement, running 8:27 (3k) and 14:37 (5k), good for NCAA #18 and NCAA #12 in D3, respectively. Looking forward, Nicholson will be a great face for the Cardinals over the next couple of years, and could prove to be a great star across the entire division.
As for the other candidates, Oberfell and Bingham both ran very solid 800’s this year, both hitting 1:53 at their final qualifier meets. They were ready to go when it mattered most. It’s very likely that these two would have challenged for All-American spots at Nationals.
Candidates: Clara Mayfield (Carleton), Anastasia Tucker (Hope), Eva Borton (Williams)
Brett’s Selection: Clara Mayfield (Carleton)
Hannah’s Selection: Clara Mayfield (Carleton)
Brett: All the way back in October, we featured Clara Mayfield and Anastasia Tucker in our cross country rankings. Now, after some great performances this indoor season, they’ve found themselves in the upper echelons of D3 once again. Mayfield and Tucker both ran their way into top 10 rankings on the D3 leaderboard, with Mayfield at NCAA #11 in the 3k and NCAA #9 in the 5k, while Tucker ended up at NCAA #9 in the 3k.
Not too far behind Mayfield, Eva Borton (Williams) ended up at NCAA #13 on the 5k leaderboard, clocking in at 17:22. It will be exciting to see where she’ll end up in the coming years, battling the others of her class.
Hannah and I both ultimately selected Clara Mayfield for her strength across two distance events. That should bode well for her future seasons.
Most Improved Award
Candidates: Nick Licari (North Central), Tyler Nault (UW-La Crosse)
Brett’s Selection: Tyler Nault (UW-La Crosse)
Hannah’s Selection: Tyler Nault (UW-La Crosse)
Hannah: It’s surprising that Tyler Nault has never made a national meet on the track before. The senior is a two time All-American in cross country and a perennial contender in the WIAC, but has never made a splash on the oval.
That changed in a big way this year as he PR’d in the last three meets of the season to secure a national qualifying time in three events. Coming into the national meet, he was ranked at NCAA #7 in the mile, NCAA #6 in the 3k, and NCAA #11 in the 5k. Not bad for a man who hasn’t even qualified for a single event at Nationals before.
Nick Licari used the North Central system to his advantage as he had a great indoor season. He PR’d in the mile, 3000 and 5000 meters and qualified for Nationals in both the 5k and DMR. This would have been his first track national meet.
Brett: Similar to Braden Nicholson’s growth, Licari has made a huge jump over the last year under Al Carius. It was really hard for me not to give him this award, because we should praise intense growth...right? When looking at it from a national perspective, making the jump from not qualifying to being a potential contender in three events gives Nault the slight edge.
Candidates: Niamh Kenney (Brandeis), Hannah Reiders (Mount Holyoke), Madeline Reiders (Mount Holyoke), Hannah Lohrenz (UW-Oshkosh)
Brett’s Selection: Hannah Rieders and Madeline Rieders (Mount Holyoke)
Hannah’s Selection: Hannah Lohrenz (UW-Oshkosh)
Hannah: This was a difficult decision as many women had great seasons this year. I chose Hannah Lohrenz as she bettered her mile time by 18 seconds this year. She consistently lowered it all season long and got her national qualifying time of 4:59 at the Wartburg Qualifier meet. This had her ranked at NCAA #10 in D3.
Another woman who was considered was Niamh Kenney from Brandeis who ran a 9:51 in the 3k to secure the NCAA #5 time in the country. That would have qualified her for her first national meet. The 9:51 was a huge jump for Kenney who, before this season, had a PR of 10:15 for the 3000 meters.
Brett: This was a unique pick as Hannah and Madeline Rieders are twins! Hailing from Mount Holyoke, these two women have shown monstrous improvement from last year. In 2019, Hannah ran 18:39 (5k) indoors and 18:00 (5k) outdoors, while Madeline ran 18:41 (5k) indoors and 18:00 (5k) outdoors. In 2020, both twins brought their PR’s down to a staggering 17:11, putting them tied for NCAA #6 on the D3 leaderboard behind some established talent.
Best Performance Award
Candidates: Aidan Ryan’s 8:08 3k, Danny Aschale’s 8:10 3k, Williams’ NCAA #2 All-Time DMR, Matthew Wilkinson’s 8:11 3k, Noah Falasco's 4:05 mile
Brett’s Selection: Matthew Wilkinson’s 8:11 3k
Hannah’s Selection: William’s #2 All-Time DMR
Brett: Aidan Ryan, Danny Aschale and Matthew Wilkinson all ran some terrific 3k’s this year: having three guys 8:11 or under is incredible. One thing that sets Wilkinson’s race apart from the others’ is that his was a completely solo effort (also on a 200 meter flat track). Ryan and Aschale had some talented guys to work with, while Wilkinson had to do the work all on his own (he nearly lapped the entire field). That gives him the slight nod in my mind, but these other performances are very impressive.
Running that fast while solo is not easy, imagine if Wilkinson had some guys to work with!
Hannah: I am picking the Williams DMR because it’s great for one person to have a great race, but for all four men to run well on the same day for the DMR is impressive.
Tristan Colaizzi, Kevin LaFleche, Cole O’Flaherty, and Aidan Ryan ran 9:46.98 at the BU Valentine Meet to beat a handful of talented D2 and D3 teams. What makes it even more impressive is that Aidan Ryan ran his mile leg mostly alone as the 2nd place team was eight seconds behind...and they still ran the NCAA #2 time in D3 history. Imagine if Ryan had some competition to push him towards the end...
The DMR would have been a great race to watch at Nationals as you had Ryan coming off of mile prelims battling Matteucci from Wash U. and Kyler Lueck from UW-Eau Claire.
Candidates: Sydney Packard's 2:06.54 800 (#2 All-Time for D3), Parley Hannan 16:05 5k (D3 National Record)
Brett’s Selection: Parley Hannan 16:05 5k (national record)
Hannah’s Selection: Parley Hannan 16:05 5k (national record)
Hannah: Parley Hannan was unbelievable this track season. I know we have been raving about her all season long, but this 5k was insanely fast. She beat D1 and D2 talent at the BU Valentine Invite on her way to blow the national record out of the water. It was set just last year by Kaitlyn Mooney (Coast Guard) who ran 16:23 at Nationals.
Brett: Destroying a national record by 18 seconds doesn’t just happen on any given day. Hannan’s 16:05 blew the division out of the water, further extending her dominance this track season. It’s crazy that a 2:06 800 meter performance, while missing the national record by .01 seconds, is the runner-up finisher in this award.
Best Team/Coach Award
Candidates: Peter Farwel (Williams), Jeff Stiles (Wash U.)
Brett’s Selection: Jeff Stiles (Wash U.)
Hannah’s Selection: Jeff Stiles (Wash U.)
Brett: This was a really tough call. Both of these programs displayed their depth on the D3 leaderboards, putting multiple names across each of the distance events, with many athletes qualifying for the national meet. It also didn’t make things easier that these two teams were ranked NCAA #1 and NCAA #2 in the DMR heading into Nationals (which would have been an incredible matchup to witness).
The Bears had two major talents in the mile via Jacob Ridderhoff and Nick Matteucci. Meanwhile, Brad Hodkinson, Jack Sebok and Noah Trimark stacked the 3k. Plus, they had a killer DMR to cap off their scoring potential.
For Williams, they had Nick Gannon and Peter Kirgis in the mile while Aidan Ryan and Elias Lindgren were in the 3k. William McGovern and Ryan Cox headlined the 5k while their DMR put down a legendary mark.
Both coaches amassed some incredible rosters this year which is why this decision was extremely tough to make. Still, we're giving the nod to Stiles and Wash U.
Candidates: Bobby Van Allen (Johns Hopkins), Erin Dinan (Ithaca)
Brett’s Selection: Bobby Van Allen (Johns Hopkins)
Hannah’s Selection: Bobby Van Allen (Johns Hopkins)
Hannah: It’s no surprise that there were so many women qualified for the national meet for Johns Hopkins. Their depth has always been impressive in cross country and it is what helped deliver them the national team title in cross country this year. That said, I don’t think we were expecting this level of depth. In total, Johns Hopkins had six separate individuals ranked inside the top 20 nationally in the mile, 3000 and the 5000 (some in more than one event).
In the mile, Ariel Keklak was ranked at NCAA #3 while Ella Barren was NCAA #14.
In the 3k, Felicia Koerner was ranked at NCAA #3, Rebecca Grusby was NCAA #4, Ella Barren was NCAA #7, and Sam Levy was NCAA #18.
In the 5k, Sam Levy was ranked NCAA #10, Caelyn Reilly was NCAA #12 and Rebecca Grusby was NCAA #20.
And we're not even talking about their two other athletes who were ranked at NCAA #21 in the 3k and 5k and would have probably run at Nationals with scratches.
Hopkins essentially sent an entire varsity cross country team to the national meet in individual events.
Most Valuable Runner Award
Candidates: Matthew Wilkinson (Carleton), Aidan Ryan (Williams)
Brett’s Selection: Matthew Wilkinson (Carleton)
Hannah’s Selection: Matthew Wilkinson (Carleton)
Brett: Another tough call to make, but we both ended up going with Wilkinson. Both of these guys ran super fast, finding themselves right at the top of D3. Wilkinson ended the season ranked at NCAA #3 in the mile, NCAA #1 in the 3k (after conversions), and NCAA #1 in the 5k, running 4:08/8:11/14:22.
Ryan ended the season ranked NCAA #2 in the mile, NCAA #2 in the 3k (after conversions), and NCAA #1 alongside his DMR squad, running 4:05 and 8:08.
The matchup between these two would have been thrilling, as these two were on the top of their game this season. Thankfully, these two are both juniors, so we will see them back in action this fall!
Candidates: Parley Hannan (Ithaca), Sydney Packard (WPI)
Brett’s Selection: Parley Hannan (Ithaca)
Hannah’s Selection: Parley Hannan (Ithaca)
Brett: If we haven’t gotten the message across yet, Parley Hannan was the shining star of Division Three this year. Holding the NCAA #1 spot in D3 in four distance events (DMR included) is no joke; some might even call it absurd, but she was absolutely terrific to follow over the last couple of months.
Akin to what we said about her monstrous 800 performance earlier in the article, in nearly any other year, Sydney Packard would have taken home this award. Missing the D3 national record by .01 seconds is simply incredible.