D3 Men's Individual Preview
Death, Taxes, and Al Carius at the DIII National Meet.
You can always count on those three things in life.
That didn’t change in 2018 as North Central berated the rest of the field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It was an interesting race as a large pack of runners stayed tight together for most of the race. Individuals waited till after 6000 meter to make their moves and split the pack.
Once again North Central came out on top with the team and individual titles as they had runners finish 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 11th for team scoring. With four of the top five finishers graduating, the door is wide open for men from other programs to move up in 2019.
The highest returner from last year’s national meet is Josh Schraeder, a rising senior from UW - La Crosse, who finished 4th at last year's national meet. This was an improvement from his 20th place showing in 2017.
In 2018 he started his season racing against D1 and D2 talent at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational where he placed 13th in 24:35. He continued to roll from there, finishing 12th (25:33) at the Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invite, 3rd (25:00) at the WIAC conference meet, and 4th (24:39) at the Midwest Regional Championships. All signs pointed to a good showing at Nationals which Schraeder delivered on. His 24:34 from NCAA's is a PR (discounting the short course at regionals in 2018) and he was only 10 seconds behind national champ Dhruvil Patel.
Schraeder took that strong cross season and translated it to the track where he PR’ed in the 1500, mile, 3000, and 5000 meters. Once again, he looks to be trending upwards coming into this cross country season.
The only knock on Schraeder is that on the national stage he has not performed as well as anticipated, especially on the track. This year alone, he placed 14th in the 3000 meters and 15th in the 1500 after coming in ranked #2 and #10 respectively. If Schraeder can perform when he is needed the most, he should be one of the favorites in Louisville this November.
Of course, Schraeder won’t be able to run away with the title as he will still be challenged by a handful of men. One of whom is Nick Matteucci, a senior from Washington University in St. Louis.
Matteucci had the best cross season of his career in 2018. He ran 25:35 or faster at the Wheaton Gil Dodds Invitational, the Loyola Lakefront meet, and the KollegeTown Invitational in Oshkosh (last yea'rs D3 version of Pre-Nats). After KollegeTown, he took almost a month off from racing before lining up at the competitive Midwest Regional Championships where he finished in 25:01 for 4th. He then lowered his PR at Nationals and finished in 24:43 for 10th. While typically stronger on the track with PR's of 4:07 for the mile and 3:45 in 1500, he had an incredibly consistent cross country season.
On the track he continued to show up in 2019, especially at the national meets. He finished 2nd in the mile, 8th in the outdoor 5k, and 4th in the 1500 which makes him one of the most dangerous runners coming into this season. If the national meet packs up again and comes down to a sprint, Matteucci will be one to watch.
The only non-senior in our "Favorites" section is junior Lucas Mueller from Carleton. He opened his 2018 season in a big way at the Bluegold Invite, finishing 2nd and setting a new PR by nearly a minute with a time of 24:41. He followed up that impressive performance with a 25:15 (4th) at KollegeTown and a 25:10 (1st) at the MIAC conference meet. Mueller must have been feeling the momentum as he then went on to run 24:55 for 2nd at the Central Regional Championships where he secured himself a bid for Nationals. He ended his season with a 17th place finish in a time of 24:49.
Mueller has proven that he belongs in the conversation for title favorites after he finished 6th at the indoor national meet in the 3000 meters this past winter. He continued his breakout year during the outdoor season where he PR’d in the 1500, 5000, and 10,000 meters. At Nationals, he finished 5th in the 5k (14:50) and 2nd in the 10k (30:14). In the 10,000 meters, he was runner up to D3 10k record holder Dhruvil Patel from North Central.
All of these performances were extremely impressive results for a sophomore. Mueller should look to carry his fitness over to this cross country season and improve upon his 17th place finish at Nationals from last year. And after the year he had, I wouldn’t be one to count him out.
One of the hardest runners to try and predict a finish for this year is Ryan Cox, a rising senior from Williams. Cox started his 2018 season with a handful of top five finishes at the Purple Valley XC Invite (25:56 for 4th), Saratoga Invitational (25:17 for 4th), and the Connecticut College Invitational (24:55 for 3rd). When the postseason came around, he still did not falter winning the NESAC conference meet with a time of 25:27 and placing 5th at the New England Regional Championships with a time of 25:01. Cox continued that consistency at the national meet where he took a huge step forward by finishing 6th in a time of 24:37 which was a monumental result when you compare that finish to Nationals in 2017 where he placed in 104th with a time of 25:32.
Things were looking good for Cox’s track season, but he only ran one meet in December and one in January before disappearing. The obvious assumption is injury, but we are still unsure. If Cox can come back healthy and fit, he will be the second fastest returner for the 2019 national meet. If that's the case, you cannot leave him out the conversation for an individual title.
One would be foolish to not consider a North Central runner when it comes to predicting an individual national champion. They have won 19 team titles, including the last three, and last year they had the top two finishers. With Al Carius at the helm, the Cardinals will always be a force in D3.
This year's fastest returner for North Central is senior Matt Osmulski who has had an interesting trajectory over the last couple of years. Back in 2017, he was in the hunt for a national title.
That year, he won the CCIW conference meet in 25:12 and then did not race at Regionals or Nationals. In 2018, he did not make it to Indoor Nationals either (presumably building up fitness from whatever knocked him out in cross). He then came back strong during outdoors, running personal bests in the 1500, 5000, and 10,000 meters before finishing 10th at Nationals in the 10k (31:16).
Last fall, Osmulski’s first 8k of the season was at the Louisville Classic where he ran 24:31 to finish 22nd place. Then he placed 2nd to Dhruvil Patel in back-to-back meets at KollegeTown (25:13) and the CCIW conference meet (24:16 PR). At the Midwest Regional Championships, North Central packed up which led to Osmulski finishing 9th in 24:46. At the national meet, Osmulski was the #4 cardinal across the line in 24:44 which was good enough for 11th. In other words, he is just another example of how dominant North Central was last year.
For Osmulski, his following track seasons were slightly underwhelming as he finished 16th in the indoor 5000 (15:03) and 10th in the outdoor 10,000 (31:12) at the respective national meets.
Osmulski seems to thrive on the grass and with another year of training under Al Carius, Osmulski is hoping to bring home yet another title for North Central.
A common theme among these dark horses is the upward trend that they are on. Patrick Watson, a rising senior from Stevenson, falls right into that category. This past track season, he set a PR in the 1500, steeplechase, 5000, and 10,000 meters. He also finished 5th in the steeple at Nationals in a time of 9:09. These are all encouraging signs for his upcoming season.
Of course, it’s not like Watson wasn't talented beforehand. In 2018, he opened his season with a 5th place finish in 25:36 at the Don Cathcart Invitational. He followed that up with a 33rd place finish at the Rowan Interregional Border Battle (25:45) and a 2nd place finish at the Middle Atlantic Conference Championships (26:27). These times aren’t astonishing when you compare them to our favorites, but Watson knows how to compete and keep himself in the top pack. He did just that when he placed 3rd at the Mideast region in a time of 26:04. Then he had his breakthrough race at the national meet where he finished 15th in a time of 24:48, his fastest time that season by almost a minute. In the span of a year, he moved up to 15th from his 70th place finish in 2017 (25:18). If Watson can continue his streak of PRing and getting faster every season, then he is looking to race himself into contention for that individual title.
While Ryan Cox sat out last track season for Williams, a new face emerged to lead the Purple Cows. Aidan Ryan, a soon to be junior, had a great 2018/2019 campaign. On the grass, he ran sub-25:20 at least four times. He reset his PR at the New England Regional Championships, running 25:05 en route to a 6th place finish. He took another small step forward running another PR of 25:01 at the national meet, but that was good for only 42nd place.
It was the track where Ryan really found his groove. He PR’d in the 800, 1500, mile, 3000, and 5000 meters, earning new personal bests race after race. At the indoor national meet, he finished 3rd in the 3000 meters with an 8:16, yet another PR. Ryan then shifted his focus towards the outdoor season, continues his run of PRs before snagging national title in the 1500 in the process (3:49). He did all of this while also placing 6th in the 5000 meters in 14:53 (his PR is 14:23).
Ryan is obviously is riding a hot streak and he knows how to show up at championship meets. He is a dangerous sleeper pick and while he may struggle with the longer distances (relatively speaking), he is one that no one wants to face down the home straight away.
The last dark horse I have is Clark Ricciardelli, the rising senior from Amherst. Ricciardelli has had a roller coaster of a career. In 2017, he was 33rd at XC Nationals before taking off indoors and coming back for outdoors (which eventually ended with an 8th place finish in the 10k at Nationals). He carried some of that fitness over to cross country where he started his season running 26:04 for 7th at the Purple Valley XC Invite and 25:00 for 6th at the Connecticut College Cross Country Invitational. He continued to have a good season, running 25:48 for 6th at NESCAC and running another 25:00 at the New England Regional Championships to take 4th. He finally broke the 25 minute barrier at Nationals when he runs 24:53 to finish 25th.
In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty great season.
Ricciardelli even had a great indoor season, running PRs in the mile, 3000, and 5000 meters. He even finished runner-up at the indoor national meet in the 5000 with a time of 14:28, a time which equals his PR.
So why a dark horse spot and not a favorite? Well, he had a rough outdoor season, running "only" 14:42 for the 5000 and 31:20 for the 10,000. Neither were even in the top 45 of D3. If Ricciardelli wants to improve on his 25th place finish in cross country this year, he is going to have to get back to the fitness level that he had during indoors and cross country.
Honorable mentions is a section for runners who could make it into the top 10 later this season, but haven’t always shown true consistency.
The first honorable mention is Jared Pangallozzi, a junior from Johns Hopkins. As a freshman, he was 179th at the national cross country meet (25:54) and that was the only national meet that he made that year. During cross country in 2018, Pangallozzi started lowering his times bit by bit, running a 25:32 at the Centennial Conference meet (4th) and a 26:22 at the Mideast Regional Championships (12th). However, it's his national performance that really draws the eye as he ran a 37 second PR to finish in 12th in 24:44. Not bad for a sophomore.
After failing to qualify for Nationals during indoor, he righted the ship when the outdoor season came, setting PRs in the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters of 14:42 and 30:14, respectively. Pangallozzi ended up finishing 12th at the national meet in the 10k with a time of 31:21
These aren’t horrible results, but if Pangallozzi wants to better his 12th place showing on the grass this year, he is going to have to carry that fitness over from outdoors and work on his consistency.
The other runner who could do well at Nationals depending on the day is Ryan Cutter, a junior from U. of Chicago. Cutter had a solid cross season in 2018, finishing between 25:00 and 25:54 in all five of his races before Nationals. He finished 6th (25:54) at the UAA Conference meet and 15th (25:03) at the Midwest Regional Championships. Cutter would go on to have a great day at the national meet, breaking 25 minutes for the first time to place 20th (24:51).
His indoor season was arguably just as strong as he set personal bests in the 3000 and 5000 meters (8:23 and 14:35). He eventually finished 11th in the 3k (8:33) at the national meet.
The reason he is an honorable mention is because, according to TFRRS, he has not raced since the indoor national meet. He may be injured and if that is the case, it hurts his chances when it comes to a national title. If Cutter can come back from injury, regain the fitness that he had last cross season, and build upon that talent, then he has a chance to make a run up the individual leader board.
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Just like the women, the men have no clear favorite to win the individual national title this year in Louisville. There are 10 or so returners gunning for that title. North Central could continue their dominance or we could see a new champion emerge. We will just have to wait until November to find out.
*Results from the KollegeTown Invitational are slower than expected because large sections of the course were covered in mud.