Men's Preview by John Cusick
Women's Preview by Grace McLaughlin
The Midwest region may be the most entertaining region in all of Division Two this weekend.
There. I said it.
That's because TSR #3 Grand Valley State will likely get the biggest test of their season. The Lakers will see TSR #9 Michigan Tech, TSR #10 Walsh, Southern Indiana, Saginaw Valley State, Hillsdale, and Illinois-Springfield all next to them on the starting line this weekend.
All of these teams have a very legitimate shot at making the national meet in two weeks.
Let's begin our conversation with Grand Valley State. TSR #2 individual Tanner Chada has been leading the way for this group throughout the entire season. He helped guide the Lakers to a runner-up finish at the MSU Spartan Invitational and then a team victory at the Lewis Crossover.
They may not be as good as they were in 2018, but the supporting cast of Ben Zaremba, Colin Hermann, Noah Steffen, Dawson Winters, Jesse Becker, and Jacob Domagalski is a strong one. That contingent hasn't been as air-tight in terms of consistency this year, but they are reliable scorers who are capable of getting the job done. Whatever the order of those scorers may be on Saturday, it should be enough to get them the regional title.
Despite the great success of Grand Valley State, Michigan Tech has been steadily closing in on the Lakers' grasp of the region this season. They most recently finished 13 points back of GVSU behind the likes of Braden Reichl and Matthew Pahl, a duo that has been scary good throughout 2019. #3 scorer Clayton Sayen continues his breakout season and is a big reason why the Huskies continue to inch closer to the top.
Earlier in the season, Michigan Tech finished just four points back of Grand Valley at the MSU Spartan Invitational, signaling a promising future. However, Nate Carey and Brendan Klynstra will need to step up on the backend of their lineup if Michigan Tech has any real chance of taking home the regional title.
Walsh might be one of the most underrated teams coming into the regional weekend. The only downfall for them is that they come from a conference that isn't the strongest. They took home the G-MAC title with 35 points, placing four inside the top 10, and five inside the top 15.
Their time spread was 60 seconds at that meet, which is respectable, but it will need to improve if the Cavaliers want to find themselves among the top three teams this weekend.
Noah Murray and Jacob Caniford have the potential to be in the top 15 individually, but Walsh will need the rest of their scorers to jump inside the top 30 for them to be successful.
Earlier in the year, they took down Saginaw Valley State and Illinois-Springfield en route to a 9th place finish at Lewis Crossover. The time spread in that race was worse than it was at G-MAC's which tells us that they are making the necessary improvements at the right time of the season.
Then we have Southern Indiana who returns the reigning regional champion in Titus Winders who will be looking to repeat on Saturday. He certainly has his hands full with Chada, but will be the low-stick that the Screaming Eagles need in order for them to finish inside the top five and possibly even the top three. Austin Nolan and Nathan Hall bring experience to this team that should help put them over the top. When Nolan is at this best, he can be a very dangerous front-runner.
Saginaw Valley State, Hillsdale, and Illinois-Springfield are all relatively the same when it comes to their lineup dynamic. They all have a strong low-stick, an efficient pairing at the #2 and #3 positions, but also hold some backend scoring concerns.
Saginaw Valley State went 2-3-8 at their GLIAC meet before closing out their top five with finishes of 22nd and 28th place. Hillsdale went 1-5-6-11 before a 23rd place finish finalized their team score. As for Illinois-Springfield, they went 2-6-7 before ending their day with finishes of 15th and 23rd at the GLVC Championships.
Saginaw Valley State's CarLee Stimpfel and Dayton Brown, as well as Hillsdale's Joseph Humes, should find themselves near the front of this race. However, the success of their teams will come down to how the rest of their lineup performs
1. Michigan Tech
2. Grand Valley State
4. Southern Indiana
5. Saginaw Valley State
1. Tanner Chada (Grand Valley State)
2. Titus Winders (Southern Indiana)
3. CarLee Stimpfel (Saginaw Valley State)
4. Braden Reichl (Michigan Tech)
5. Matthew Pahl (Michigan Tech)
6. Joseph Humes (Hillsdale)
7. Noah Murray (Walsh)
8. Ben Zaremba (Grand Valley State)
9. Dayton Brown (Saginaw Valley State)
10. Clayton Sayen (Michigan Tech)
The TSR #2 team in the nation.
Four (yes, four!) “Just Missed” teams.
Three "Honorable Mention" teams.
On both the team and individual side of things, there is a clear leader followed by tight competition. The Grand Valley State Lakers should have another easy win and qualify for their 20th National Championship in a row.
After the Lakers, there’s a group of teams that could make their way into the #2 spot. Hillsdale, Walsh, Southern Indiana, Southwest Baptist, Saginaw Valley, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan, Malone, and Wayne State are all the notable teams competing in this weekend's regional race.
Grand Valley State hasn't shied away from top-tier competition this year (and they haven't performed poorly either). The Lakers placed 2nd at the MSU Spartan Invite, 5th at the Ohio State Buckeye Preview, they won the team title at the Lewis Crossover meet, and took home the win at the GLIAC Championships.
They started their season battling Division One competition and then dominated Division Two fields at their last two meets. They are in good shape heading into this weekend.
Their top runners have shuffled around a bit, but Allie Ludge, Hanna Groeber, Madison Goen, Jessica Gockley, and Klaudia O’Malley should be their scoring five. That group will likely be more concerned about the national meet than the regional meet.
Ludge and the triple-G trio (trademark pending) have all been consistent low-sticks this year while O’Malley made her collegiate debut with a fantastic 3rd finish at their conference meet.
We then have Hillsdale who placed 11th in the Joe Piane Notre Dame Gold race and later won the GMAC Championships the other weekend to edge out Walsh, 43 to 46.
The GMAC runner-ups, the Walsh Cavaliers, have also had a decent season thus far. They were 4th at the National Catholic Invite, 3rd at the All-Ohio XC Championship, and 3rd again at the Lewis Conference Crossover. I'm projecting Hillsdale to take that runner-up spot this weekend, but Walsh is a close 3rd.
This could be one of the best battles of the weekend that doesn't result in a team title. These two teams are not only similar, but they are also very familiar with each other. Can the depth of Walsh turn the tables? Or will the Hillsdale front-runners be able to finish low enough to the point where Walsh's backend wont matter?
In 4th place, we have the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles. They won the GLVC Championship a few weeks ago, but that shouldn't overshadow their very impressive results from the regular season. After winning their home meet, they finished runner-up at the Trevecca Nazarene DII Showcase and were 6th in the highly competitive Lewis Conference Crossover meet.
Rounding out our top five is Southwest Baptist thanks to their recent performances and increasing momentum throughout the season. With key finishes such as 4th place at the Southern Stampede Invite and 8th place at the Louisville Classic, this team has enough big-meet experience to thrive against their competition on Saturday.
On the individual side of things, my entire top 10 runners have some kind of mention in our XC Top 25 (either in our rankings, Honorable Mentions, or Just Missed categories).
Allie Ludge of Grand Valley should continue her winning streak, but Elysia Burgos of Southwest Baptist could making things interesting. Burgos has recorded three sub-17:30 marks for 5000 meters as well as a 21:05 6k last weekend. She won the FHSU Tiger Open and took home the GLVC win as well.
Some combination of Groeber, Gockley, and Goen should earn top 10 finishes. They are consistent veterans who would be top-tier low-sticks on pretty much any other team.
The Lakers also have a surprise freshman in Klaudia O’Malley who placed 3rd overall at the GLIAC Championships. We've only seen one result from her so far, but as of right now, we don't have any reason to think that she won't be racing next to her teammates this weekend.
Lauren Bailey of Indianapolis has greatly improved and made her name known this season. She started off with a win at the Taylor University Ray Bullock Invite, then placed 4th at the Lewis Crossover meet before settling for silver behind Burgos at the GLVC Championships.
Kathryn Etelamaki of Ferris State is another extremely consistent athlete heading into the regional meet. She placed 28th at the MSU Spartan Invite, 32nd at the Ohio State Buckeye Preview, 9th at the Lewis Conference Crossover meet, and 5th at GLIAC Championships. Not only does she have experience against top-ranked competition, but she has thrived in those fields. She should near the GVSU trio of Groeber, Goen, and Gockley on Saturday.
Emily Byrd of Michigan Tech should be a big name to watch. She slightly underwhelmed at the GLIAC Championships with an 8th place finish, but her 6th place result at the Lewis Crossover meet should not be forgotten.
Finally, we have Jennifer Comastri of Southern Indiana who is having a breakout season which should result in her qualifying for her first National Championship. She was runner-up at the Trevecca Nazarene DII Showcase Meet and then recorded two more top five finishes at Lewis and GLVC's.
Overall, this meet is filled with insane talent and depth. The predictions I made are of my best judgment, but there are several teams and a ton of individuals who are very close together. Any of them could have fantastic races and put themselves in the top five team-wise or record a top 10 finishes individually.
The Midwest region reminds us about the most important lesson of cross country...
Anything can happen.
1. Grand Valley State
4. Southern Indiana
5. Southwest Baptist
1. Allie Ludge (Grand Valley State)
2. Elysia Burgos (Southwest Baptist)
3. Hannah Groeber (Grand Valley State)
4. Lauren Bailey (Indianapolis)
5. Madison Goen (Grand Valley State)
6. Klaudia O’Malley (Grand Valley State)
7. Kathryn Etelamaki (Ferris State)
8. Jessica Gockley (Grand Valley State)
9. Jennifer Comsastri (Southern Indiana)
10. Emily Byrd (Michigan Tech)