Cusick's D2 Review: Update #3

Updated: Oct 4, 2018

By: John Cusick

It is confirmed. Week five of the season was straight rocking. We had the Stanford Invite, Roy Griak Invite, Paul Short Invite, Joe Piane, AND Nuttycombe! How could you not be excited with a weekend like this?

Not only did we have high-caliber meets, but we also had high-caliber performances by many athletes. We had teams show their firepower and give us a good look at what their rosters will look like when the most important meets of the year come around. Let’s get started.

Stanford Invitational

We had three D2 teams compete here this weekend, including Adams State, Cal Poly Pomona, and Simon Fraser. I’d like to think that all three held their own against some very good D1 competition.

Adams State finished 3rd as a team behind Stanford and UCLA. Sydney Gidabuday led the Grizzlies that morning as he finished runner-up behind Robert Brandt (who was competing unattached). Gidabuday grabbed the coveted single point for scoring purposes.

Behind him was Elias Gedyon who finished 7th place, giving the Grizzlies some firepower with two athletes inside the top 10. Joshua Joseph and Kale Adams were the next Grizzlies to cross the line. Joseph was 18th while Adams bounced back from some poor results earlier this season and finished 22nd. The Grizzlies lost most of their points with their fifth and final scorer. Dominguez finished 43rd on the day, leaving a notable scoring gap between them and UCLA. Regardless, Adams State proved that they are one of the best programs in the country despite the D2 label.

Simon Fraser didn't necessarily have a bad meet given the times of their athletes. Rowan Doherty led the way for Simon Fraser with a 38th place finish. Pierre Louis-Detourbe was the second scorer in 45th place. Sean Miller and Carlos Vargas were the next two across the line, placing 51st and 52nd. Rounding out the scoring was Aaron Ahl who finished 67th. At first glance, it doesn’t appear that Simon Fraser had the strongest of days (especially when you bring in the regional rankings). However, I don’t think that is the case this time around. Their pack time was 49 second, which was better than Adams State’s (1:25). If Miller returns to the form he was in last year, Simon Fraser will be just fine.

Capital Cross Challenge

We finally saw one of the teams we had been highly anticipating throughout the year. No, it’s not the Orediggers. Instead, it was our dark horse team: the Chico State Wildcats. Their debut certainly did not disappoint.

The Wildcats came away with the team title by more than 60 points with a score of 42 points. Pepperdine was the next best team at 105. Chico State placed three runners inside the top 10 with Eddie King in 4th, Jason Intravaia in 8th, and Jack Johnson in 9th. Wyatt Baxter was 19th and Teddy Kassa finished the scoring for the Wildcats in 22nd place. This is a team led by a veteran group that is looking for another strong finish come November. With a pack time of 40 seconds, things certainly look like they are moving in the right direction for Coach Towne and company. This team was already ranked first in their region, and I don’t think they did anything this weekend to relinquish that top spot.

Cal Poly Pomona was the next team on the team results and had a very impressive showing. Led by Jeremiah Suzara in 25th place and a time of 25:03 the Broncos finished fifth as a team. Three seconds behind him was Alejandro Ambrosio in 28th place. The time between these two was an early indicator how well the Broncos ran as a team. Eamon Smythe was the third runner in 45th, Diego Arriola was the number four man at 49th and the scoring was finished off by Tristan Sylva at 63rd. The Broncos showed us their depth this weekend and finished with a very impressive pack time of 29 seconds. If they can maintain that pack time throughout the season, we should see the Broncos make an impact at their regional meet and the national meet.

Stanislaus State was also present at this meet, but didn’t see the same kind of success…well, not entirely. The Warriors were led by freshman Leo Oliva who covered the course in 25:09 and finished in 31st place. Outside of his performance, the rest of the team was somewhat lack-luster. Alexis Reynoso placed 81st, Isaac Gonzalez finished 101st, Alejandro Rios crossed the line in 108th, and the final scorer for Stanislaus was Carlos Mendoza at 117th. Stanislaus had recently moved into the top ten of the West regional after a solid performance at their home meet, but they’ll need better performances from the rest of the crew to have a shot at the Big Dance.

6th Annual UNG XC Invitational

We had five of the top 10 teams from the Southeast region all compete at the same meet this weekend and they kept things entertaining. August, UNC Pembroke, Anderson (S.C.), Tusculum, and Columbus State all toed the line on Saturday morning to battle it out.

Augusta (ranked 3rd) came away with the win, scoring 45 points to edge UNC Pembroke (46 points) despite having a slower average time. Augusta was able to put six runners across the line before Pembroke had their final scorer finish.

Sophomore Jacob Poston finished 3rd overall, and led the way for the Jaguars. His time of 25:39 was 22 seconds behind the winner and 12 seconds behind 2nd place. Poston cleared 4th place by 17 seconds, taking most of the drama out of his placing. Behind him was Noah Hulett who placed 5th in 25:57 while Hunter Kimball was the third scorer in 7th. Through three runners, Augusta trailed Pembroke by eight points. However, their fourth runner finished 14th to keep pace with Pembroke. Jacob Brenneman was the deciding factor in the team race as he crossed the line in 16th to secure the W. The Jaguars pack time was 1:10, just enough to take home the team trophy by the slimmest of margins.

As we switch over to UNC Pembroke, it’s worth noting that their average time was nine seconds faster than Augusta’s. A large part of this is due to low-stick Joshua Chepkesir. The freshman led the way and took home the individual title by 20 seconds in a time of 25:07. 2nd place was teammate Silus Kipkoech who ran 25:27. Logan Ward was the third scorer and finished in 4th place, giving UNC-Pembroke three men inside the top 10 and (more importantly) three men in before any other squad. Matthew Martin was the Braves fourth runner, finishing in 13th place. His performance meant that they had four runners in before Augusta, and all signs pointed to Pembroke coming away with a huge upset. Unfortunately, the Braves fifth runner was Ean Ormsby who crossed the line in 26th, giving them a score of 46 total points. Regardless of the end result, a runner-up finish was welcomed as Pembroke took down Anderson (S.C.), Tusculum, and Columbus State, all of which were ranked ahead of them in the most recent USTFCCA regional polls. If they can shore up their fifth runner, finishing in the top three of the region is very possible.

Anderson (S.C.) is a very young team and I believe that showed at this meet. Led by freshman Logan Horning in 9th place and sophomore Weston Hutton in 12th place, they were the only ones to dip under the 27:00 mark. Noah Mclain, another freshman, finished in 20th. Philip Quillen was 24th (also only a sophomore) and their fifth runner was Joey Teachout (another sophmore). This team is still growing and with that comes ups and downs. The team scored 99 points on the day, but will likely be falling in the next poll.

Tusculum and Columbus State tied with 136 points. Tusculum was led by TJ Tupps in 11th with a time of 26:41. Jackson Beason was 21st with Kyler Hodges two spots behind him in 23rd. After that, the scoring begins to fall off for the Pioneers as Marcus Savage was 48th and Alejandro Perez was 54th. As for Columbus State, they were led by Christopher Oswald in 15th. Noah Churchwell was next in 19th place. Both were under the 27:00 threshold as well. Wright Calhoun was the third man for the Cougars with Noah Hollis three spots behind him in 30th. Isaac Krumm rounded out the scoring for Columbus State.

I think UNC Pembroke had the best performance out of all the teams at this meet and I expect them to leapfrog the three teams currently ranked in front of them during the next regional poll. I also think they have a legitimate low-stick in Chepkesir who should be a force within the Peach Belt conference.

Loyola Lakefront Invitational

We only had one team compete from the D2 level at this meet, and they made A TON of noise. The Lakers of Grand Valley State continued their success by knocking off D1 squads Nebraska, Arizona, Texas A&M and Missouri (to name a few).

Led by the tandem of Zach Panning and Enael Woldemichael, it was never really in question that Grand Valley State would take home the team title. Panning took home another individual win in 23:47 while his teammate Woldemichael was three seconds behind him in 2nd. Joe Renner and Josh Steible finished together at 19th and 20th respectively, with Brian Masayesva finishing the scoring in 23rd.

Their pack time? 1:04.

As the season progresses, we’d expect this time-spread to shrink underneath a minute. With Panning and Woldemichael being in the conversation as national title contenders, Grand Valley State will be looking to bring home their first team title in school history.

Rim Rock Classic

We had two MIAA and Central region foes (Fort Hays State and Nebraska-Kearney) face off at Rim Rock this weekend in.

Guess who won?


Both scored 102 points. Their average time was two seconds apart and the team with the better first runner finished ahead in the official team results. Don’t you love running?

Fort Hays State was 3rd in the official results and were led by Israel Barco who came across the line in 17th place. Robbie Schmidt was next at 25th. Alex Barbosa and Justin Moore were less than a second apart at 27th and 28th while Reed Rome came in 32nd. That top five earned a 28 second pack time to secure the “win” over Nebraska-Kearney.

As for Kearney, their lead runner finished 3rd overall. Corbin Hansen had a huge performance and bested his previous 8k PR by 44 seconds to lead the Lopers. Shane Burkey was next at the 26th spot and was followed by three freshmen who finished out their scoring. Trenton Cadwallader was 31st, Justin Vrooman was 34th, and Matt Thurston was 36th.

If you’ve made it this far, then you probably know how cross country scoring works and why Fort Hays State finished ahead of Nebraska-Kearney. Fort Hays State should benefit from this win over Kearney in the next regional poll as they were 8th and Kearney was 3rd.

Roy Griak Invitational

This was the meet we had been anticipating throughout the week and we saw a lot of action through the entire event. Mason Phillips solidified his legitimacy as a national title contender and we saw a couple others add their name to the mix. We’ll get to Phillips, but let us first begin with the team title winner, Augustana (S.D.) who nudged out a seven point victory over Sioux Falls.

This was another Central region face off that saw Augustana keep a hold on the top spot. Junior Nathan Schroeder came across the line in 5th place to lead the Vikings that morning. Aaron Runge was next for Augustana as he snuck inside the top 10 to place 9th. Wyatt McLeod was next in 14th while Bonheur Mvuyekure seven spots behind him in 21st. Jesus Urusuastegui finished 23rd and capped the scoring for the Vikings. All five of their scorers were underneath the 26:00 mark.

Sioux Falls looked to be on their way to a team title after the top 10 had been established. Phillips paced the entire field on his way to a win with a time of 24:53 and a nine second victory. Steven Brown was in contention for a top five spot, but fell back a bit and crossed the line in 7th at 25:21. Zach Lundberg placed 10th place while Jase Kraft was two seconds behind him and finished in 12th. Through four runners, it looked like the Cougars were well on their way to an team team win. Yet, as we all know, it comes down to five runners and Sioux Falls’ fifth was Billy Beseman. He finished 56th on the day. If he can return to his 2015 form, I think the Cougars will be in very good shape moving forward over the next few months.

Minnesota State finished 4th at this meet and were led by their senior Austin Pasch who finished 3rd. Austin Yardley placed 11th, but that was it for the Mavericks low-sticks. Caleb Burke (30th), Jacob Wahlers (52nd), and Isaiah Rabata (70th) were the last scorer for Minnesota State. The Mavericks were able to hold off Fort Lewis by just two points (which they can thank their top two for).

As for Fort Lewis, they had their low scorer come in just behind Minnesota State’s in 4th place. Hosava Kretzmann paced the Skyhawks and much like Minnesota State, there were far too many athletes between him and the second scorer for Fort Lewis. Bismarck Kipkilach was 35th, Sylas Schutt was 38th, Preston Charlie was 41st, and Shawvan Levi was 48th. Luckily, Fort Lewis has two things going for them. They had a 14 second time-spread between their 2-5 runners, and all their scorers are seniors (giving them an edge when it comes to experience).

The last team to highlight here is MSU-Moorhead. We’ve talked about both Nadir Yusuf and Josh Young in our individual rankings, and to no one’s surprise, they led their team once again. Yusuf finished 24th and Young was 29th. However, they’ll need some help as the season progresses as Nick Marshall was 55th, Hunter Kjelshus was 77th, and Jay Biwer was 86th. The Dragons have a bright future with three of their scores still classified as underclassmen.

Queen City Invite

We had three teams show up at the Queen City Invite. Embry-Riddle (ranked 2nd in the South region), Queens (N.C.) (ranked 1st in the Southeast region), and Florida Southern (ranked 4th in the South region).

When the dust settled and the scores were tallied, Embry-Riddle would finish in 2nd place, four points ahead of the host Queens. Ryan Szklany finished in 10th place and his teammate Calahan Warren was 14th. Together, they helped keep the score low and essentially capture a 2nd place finish. Shaun Bullock was next in 24th, Lelei Too came in at 38th, and Paul McKenna was 46th. Despite not being in the same region, this is a quality performance for the Eagles. They now have a victory over the number one ranked team in the Southeast region and can use that to build momentum for the rest of the season.

As for Queens, they were led by Nick Kipkemei who dipped under the 25:00 mark in 11th place at 24:59. The next four runners for Queens all finished within four seconds of each other. Daniel Wallis was 29th, Yannick Duppich was 31st, Seb Anthony was 34th, and Elijah Inuwa was 35th. It’s worth noting that Felix Wammetsberger was not apart of the team this past weekend. If Queens were to insert him back into the lineup, they would likely yield a lower score than what they finished with. This team is in a great position going forward and should be kept on your radar throughout the season.

As for Florida Southern, they had the greatest individual success as Mason Jones finished in 6th place at 24:36 and was the first non-D1 athlete across the line. In fact, it looked like Florida Southern was going to have a good day as a team as well. They had Warran Grajalez finish 20th, Joshua Wagner right behind him in 21st, and then Dean McGregor at 30th. Unfortunately, Mitchell Kozik was the number five man and he was 122nd. If they can find anyone to improve upon that mark, then this could be a very dangerous team. Yet, even with their vulnerability at the fifth scoring position, they still (currently) sit 4th in their region.

Paul Short Invitational

This is a late edit. During my analysis of the Paul Short meet I seemed to have missed a team that is currently sitting atop the Southeast region as of 10/2. That would be Mount Olive. The Trojans competed in the Gold section of the race and while the numbers didn’t look great, upon further analysis they had a very good meet. Led by sophomore Jacob Gonzalez in 25:14 and good enough for 47th place (he’s a 1:19 faster this year around than last year) it seems that Mount Olive is doing something right. Behind him was Alexandre Durand in 59th place and seven seconds behind. Tai Smith was another seven seconds behind Durand in 74th position to be scorer number three. The only concern with Mount Olive is how their fourth and fifth runner fared in Jereamy Hall (173rd) and Jacob Willis (194th). It looks like Hall had a bad day or is still getting back into shape as he ran 24:13 last year and Willis shaved 1:10 seconds off his time from earlier in the season. The battle for the Southeast region is going to be something to watch between them and Queens (N.C.) and I certainly cannot wait.

There is a ton of content to process here. We had a huge weekend that is going to have some major impact upon the USTFCCA rankings and we are excited to see those as well. The next big meet on the schedule is the Lewis Crossover meet that is coming this weekend where we will see even more teams that are in the mix at the D2 level.

Stay tuned here at The Stride Report for more and more action. We’ll continue to look at as many D2 teams that are deemed competitive throughout the season.