Men's Preview by Quenten Lasseter
Women's Preview by Grace McLaughlin
The three-way battle for the Central regional crown will go through Augustana (TSR #6), Missouri Southern (TSR #7), and NW Missouri (TSR #8). Each team has had great seasons with major wins along with their top runners being legitimate All-American candidates.
Augustana started their season a bit on the slower side, but began to build serious momentum after their 1st place finish at the Roy Griak Invite. The Vikings fed off their win and later took home the NSIC title over defending champions Sioux Falls. They were able to do this by putting four runners in the top 10, including low-stick Aaron Runge (TSR #16) taking the individual title of Mason Phillips.
Last year at the Central Regional Championships, the Vikings fell short of the win by 18 points, as they were defeated by Missouri Southern, forcing them to finish 2nd place as a team. This year, however, could be much different as Runge could mix it up with Gidieon Kimutai at the front of this race.
Although Augustana has an excellent lineup through four runners, they still have some questions at their #5 spot. It's a position that has been distant from the rest of their scorers throughout the season.
Missouri Southern has been led all season by a runner who seems to be the clear-cut favorite to win it all at Nationals, Gidieon Kimutai.
Kimutai has easily won all season long, beating TSR #2 individual Tanner Chada of Grand Valley State during the regular season, proving his legitimacy in the process. Teammates Nickson Kiptoo and Tulsa transfer Ryan Riddle have proved to be reliable low-sticks along with Kimutai. After winning the MIAA Championship over TSR #8 NW Missouri, the Lions proved to be one of the most consistent teams in the NCAA and they will have another opportunity to prove that as they battle for the top spot at their regional meet.
NW Missouri is the definition of a dark horse. This team finished 17th last year in this race, but have been on a steady trend upwards all season as it looks like they are finally putting all the pieces together.
The Bearcats may have the strongest top three runners in the region (and maybe the nation) in Jhordan Ccope, Karim Achengli, and Augostine Lisoreng. This trio finished 2-3-4 at the MIAA Championships, offering lethal firepower and giving Missouri Southern a challenge through three runners. Each of these men have run times of 24:38 or faster, including Ccope’s 23:57 at the Chile Pepper Festival.
With these three leading the way, and NW Missouri’s #4 and #5 runners consistently making improvements (albeit, with a considerable gap still present), there can be a good case for the Bearcats to threaten for a regional victory this weekend.
As predicted, Missouri Southern’s Gidieon Kimutai (TSR #1) is the favorite to win the individual title after successfully winning it at last year's Central Regional Championships. He has shown no signs of weakness this season and I don't think an upset will happen anytime soon. NW Missouri’s three-headed monster consisting of Ccope, Achengli, and Lisoreng will be a threat to Kimutai’s reign as all three have proven that they can run fast and together.
Lastly in the mix, individuals such as Aaron Runge (Augustana (S.D.)) and teammates Nickson Kiptoo & Ryan Riddle (Missouri Southern) will also be in the mix to win it all. Each must show up and show out in order to do so, but it’s not impossible.
Nadir Yusuf (MSU-Moorhead) will make his case for the individual title as well. He recently placed 3rd at the NSIC Championships and has performed well all season, putting up consistently strong performances. The switch to 10k should help him as he has performed well over that distance in his career.
1. Missouri Southern
2. NW Missouri
5. Sioux Falls
1. Gidieon Kimutai (Missouri Southern)
2. Jhordan Ccope (NW Missouri)
3. Nadir Yusuf (MSU-Moorhead)
4. Karim Achengli (NW Missouri)
5. Mason Phillips (Sioux Falls)
6. Ryan Riddle (Missouri Southern)
7. Aaron Runge (Augustana (S.D))
8. Augostine Lisoreng (NW Missouri)
9. Nickson Kiptoo (Missouri Southern)
10. Jesus Urtusuastegui (Augustana (S.D.))
The MIAA and NSIC conferences will collide at the Central Regional Championships. U-Mary and Augustana headline the race with several rising teams behind them.
On the women's side, expect the Marauders of U-Mary to pull off the win. Their 2nd place finish at Roy Griak paired with their NSIC title makes them the favorites in this race. They have a clear front-runner in Ida Narbuvoll (who might be one of the best runners in the nation) and a solid pack behind her.
The supporting cast of Kayla Ogle, Taylor Hestekin, and Starlynn Costa are going to be too much for the rest of the region to handle as each of those women have made appearances in our XC Top 25 rankings. U-Mary should have another impressive performance this weekend that propels them to Nationals.
Augustana should easily be 2nd team in the final standings. They beat the Marauders at Roy Griak before placing runner-up at the Lewis Conference Crossover. However, once the postseason rolled around, the U-Mary women got their revenge and forced the Vikings to settle for 2nd at the NSIC Championships.
Claire Boersma, Cait Savey, and Nicolette Schmidt have been consistent low-sticks for the Vikings all year, acting as interchangeable front-runners. This team will be a legitimate threat to the Marauders, but the talent in this field replicates what we saw at the NSIC Championships which is why we are giving the edge to U-Mary...for now.
These two teams are clearly some of the best in the country. They're both deep, they both have firepower near the top of the field, and both have been on the big stage before.
Pittsburg State should easily be in the top three after their win at the MIAA Championships. The Gorillas haven't had too many standout performances where they have wowed the rest of the NCAA, but they are quietly consistent and have found a way to stay competitive against some respectable teams.
Piper Misse and Cassidy Westhoff will lead their team and help Pittsburg State tremendously in the scoring. Their top four have been pretty consistent and overall, the Gorillas have had a solid season. At their conference meet, their top four were all inside the top 20 before their #5 runner finished 40th.
They're likely okay for this weekend, but heading into NCAA's, they'll need a stronger performance from the backend of their lineup if they want to stay competitive.
Central Missouri will likely be 4th after their close runner-up finish at the MIAA Championships. They had their best performance of the season at the Chile Pepper XC Festival where they placed 3rd in the "B" race. They have a similar lineup dynamic to Pittsburg State, but their backend is arguably not as stable.
Winona State should be in the top five as well. The Warriors started off their season with a 7th place finish at the Augustana Twilight Meet, an 11th place finish at the Lewis Conference Crossover, a win at the Lucian Rosa Invitational, and a 3rd place finish at the NSIC Championships.
Winona State has slowly improved the bottom half of their lineup (specifically at the NSIC Championships) and have found ways to stay competitive against some respectable programs. They could sneak up on a few unsuspecting teams this weekend.
Oklahoma Baptist is another team that deserves a shoutout. They easily won the Great American Conference Championships by putting their top five in the top 10. Earlier in the season, they won the UCO Land Run and won the Chile Pepper XC Festival (B race).
On the individual side of things, Ida Narbuvoll of U-Mary should have another dominating performance over the field. She has won multiple races by over a minute throughout the season and the Central Regional Championships will be no exception.
Narbuvoll’s teammates Kayla Ogle, Starlynn Costa, and Taylor Hestekin should also place in the top 10. They have all been consistent low-sticks for U-Mary who have had major success throughout the season.
Augustana will also have several women in the top 10, including Claire Boersma, Cait Savey, and Nicolette Schmidt.
Piper Misse and Cassidy Westhoff of Pittsburgh State will likely find their way inside the top 10 (or at least one of them). Misse won the MIAA Championships while Westhoff placed 3rd.
Risper Mengich of Central Missouri placed 2nd and should be in the top 10 as well. The freshman has proved that she can run with the more experienced runners this season.
The Central Region will be centered around Division II powerhouses U-Mary and Augustana, but several other teams have improved throughout the season which should make for an exciting competition in the fight to get to Nationals.
2. Augustana (S.D.)
3. Pittsburgh State
4. Central Missouri
5. Winona State
1. Ida Narbuvoll (U-Mary)
2. Claire Boersma (Augustana)
3. Kayla Ogle (U-Mary)
4. Cait Savey (Augustana)
5. Starlynn Costa (U-Mary)
6. Taylor Hestekin (U-Mary)
7. Piper Misse (Pittsburgh State)
8. Nicolette Schmidt (Augustana)
9. Risper Mengich (Central Missouri)
10. Cassidy Westhoff (Pittsburgh State)