Updated: Dec 31, 2019
There isn’t a lot of coverage on D3 cross country and track out there, and I’m super excited that we are starting to cover the scene. There are a lot of great runners, teams, meets, and stories to tell, and I am really looking forward to covering this upcoming season of D3 running.
With that being said, let’s jump into it...
Before we can talk about the upcoming cross country season and what we can expect to see, I think it's a good to give everyone some quick background as to how the 2018 season ended...
Last fall, North Central dominated the field at NCAA's, scoring a mere 43 points. They were led by Dhruvil Patel and senior Al Baldonado, who went 1-2, respectively. With Chris Buechner in 8th, Matt Osmulski in 11th, and Zach Hird in 33rd, the Cardinals locked up the title by a considerable margin (67 points), with five All-Americans to their name.
It was a close battle for 2nd, with Washington University (in St. Louis) taking runner-up honors with 110 points. They had three All-Americans in Brad Hodkinson, Nick Matteucci, and Peter Johnsrud, each finishing 7th, 10th, and 31st, respectively. David O’Gara in 44th and Joe Stover in 56th rounded out the scoring for the Bears, putting together a really solid performance for their best finish in school history.
17 points behind them was UW-La Crosse taking 3rd with 127 points. The Eagles went 4-14-30 with Josh Schraeder, Thomas Schultz, and Tyler Nault taking home All-American honors. Sam Hinz and Chris Pahnke rounded out the scoring, taking 44th and 83rd, respectively. Their 3rd place finish continues their perennial success on the D3 scene, consistently placing in the top 10 for the last seven years.
Haverford and Wartburg would round out the top five, taking 4th and 5th, respectively.
With their 19th cross country title in the books, North Central secured a three-peat, only losing to UW-Eau Claire in 2015. With six out of the seven runners on the championship squad being graduated seniors, 2019 is expected to be a difficult rebound year for the Cardinals. However, knowing their program and degree of success, they’ll certainly pull together a solid group for in 2019. Nonetheless, this does leave things wide open for the fall.
Here are some key questions to consider as we enter the fall of 2019...
Who will step up for North Central?
As previously mentioned, North Central is losing nearly their entire top seven from last fall. The lone man left is senior Matt Osmulski, who is one of the top returners in D3 after taking 11th overall last year. He put together a decent track season, earning him trips to both indoor and outdoor Nationals in the 5k and 10k, respectively. He’ll have to bring his A-game in leading the Cardinals this fall.
Some other guys that could potentially step up are Thomas Rohr, Gabriel Pommier, Bjorn Shroda, and Alex Makrounis. These guys were around (or under) 15 minutes for 5k in the spring, and with a solid summer of training, they could become the next group of guys to bring home a podium finish for North Central.
With the likes of Dhruvil Patel and the graduating senior class having moved on to post-collegiate endeavors, it will be tough to replicate a national title. Being under the helm of legendary coach Al Carius, you can never count out North Central when it comes to the national meet.
Which will hold more weight? Their incredible history of success? Or their overwhelming loss of veteran scorers? At the moment, it feels like a toss up...
Building Momentum: How far will Wash U. go?
Coming off of their highest cross country finish ever as 2nd place finishers, the Bears of Wash U. have a solid squad returning to help them towards another great postseason. They will be led by senior Nick Matteucci, who is coming off of a great track season after finishing 10th overall at the national meet in cross country last fall.
Matteucci was a five-time All-American just last year, placing in the indoor mile and DMR, the outdoor 1500 and 5k, as well as cross country. Being able to stretch from the 800 to 8k will serve him well in his final year, and makes him a prime contender for a single-digit finish in the fall.
The other returners for the Bears include Joe Stover and Marco Quaroni, who both have put up solid times across the board and have a year of cross country championship experience under their belts. In addition to those guys, some other names to look out for are Jacob Ridderhoff, Jack Sebok, and Tucker Cera.
Quaroni and Sebok both qualified for outdoors in the steeple, while Ridderhoff and Cera both advanced in the 1500 outdoors. These guys put up some quick times on the track, and it should transfer over to the grass pretty well.
Coming off an all-around great year, Wash U. has a lot to look forward to this fall and beyond. With a ton of exposure to championship racing, whether in cross country or track, the Bears should have a squad that will be ready to compete for a national title.
UW-La Crosse: Building on Consistency
UW-La Crosse has a storied history of performing incredibly well when it comes to D3 cross country, and they added to their history with a 3rd place finish at the national meet last year.
Josh Schraeder is the top returner in the field, taking 4th overall last fall. He’s put up some great performances over his career, and should be looking for more this year. He is quietly consistent, rarely ever posting a poor performance...at least during cross country. This past track season saw him qualify for both indoor and outdoor Nationals, but walked away without an All-American finish in either. Schraeder will be hungry to validate himself as a clear title contender this fall.
Also returning for the Eagles is Tyler Nault, who finished 30th last year. A long-ranger mainly focusing on the 5k/10k in track, he will be ready to be the second man to a deadly 1-2 punch for La Crosse this fall.
Chris Pahnke and Matt Bourland will also be back, both making steady progress in their track seasons from the year before. If they can chase those All-American finishes, putting four guys in the top 40 could make La Crosse a team to beat.
Wartburg on the Rise
Last year, Wartburg tied their best D3 XC finish ever, placing 5th overall. This year, they are coming back with six out of their seven runners, and they have a great shot at bettering last year’s performance.
The Knights return a strong trio in Sam Pinkowski (26th in XC), Joe Frieburger (41st), and Caleb Appleton (55th). All of these guys chipped away at their times during track this season, and all clocked sub 14:40 at the NCC Gregory Final Qualifier, going 1-3 in a great team effort. These guys all have the potential to be low-sticks, and having these three options does Wartburg a great service. Their performance at last year's national meet was great, but it also leaves plenty of room for them to grow and improve, making Wartburg a dangerous team to keep in mind.
After a solid freshman cross country season, Dalton Martin took 5th in the 800 meet at Indoor Nationals. He focused on the mid-distance events during track, but proved last fall that he can bring the heat on the grass. Juniors Matt Heinzman and Liam Conroy both put up solid track seasons, each nearly dipping under 15 minutes in the 5k. These three guys could be the difference makers to propel Wartburg to their first-ever podium finish.
Wartburg brings a really exciting group of guys into the mix to challenge the perennial contenders for a D3 title this fall. The crazy thing, though, is that there’s only one senior in this group of six! They will certainly be a team to watch for seasons beyond just this year.
The Fiery 1-2 Punch of Carleton
It might be a bit of a darkhorse pick, but Carleton is a team that is up-and-coming after this past year. After placing 14th in cross country at the 2018 national meet, this choice might seem a little odd, but with six out of their top seven returning, they’ve got the potential to blow last year’s performance out of the water.
I gave the title for this section appropriately, as Lucas Mueller and Matthew Wilkinson (both juniors) were on fire during track. Mueller went toe-to-toe with D3’s best all through the season, and backed it up with taking a 6th place finish in the indoor 3k, 5th in the outdoor 5k, and came within .19 seconds of dethroning Dhruvil Patel in the 10k, finishing runner-up.
Mueller is ready to throw down with the rest of the D3 elites after running some blazing times, but we already knew that if you looked at his 2018 cross country season as a whole. He was the 2018 MIAC champion who eventually finished runner-up at this regional meet. His 17th place finish from last year's cross country national meet was impressive, but his regular season tells us that he could be even better.
Wilkinson also had himself a stellar year, chopping some serious time off of his PR’s and racking up multiple All-American finishes. He took 6th in the indoor 5k and 3rd in the steeplechase during outdoors, asserting himself as a future national title contender in the obstacle-based event over the next two years.
The Knights also return a slew of guys who could add to the team’s potential to land on the podium. Cameron Meikle, Stephen Lavey, Adam Nakasaka, and Ben Santos are all guys to look out for in the fall. With some more development, especially with the latter three being sophomores, these guys could be the difference makers for a great team finish.
Similar to Wartburg, Carleton returns six guys from last year. These guys have great potential to really shake up the landscape of D3 with some solid growth from their team, and even have a shot for individual glory in Mueller or Wilkinson. Be sure to be on the lookout for Carleton this fall.
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With a month and a half until cross country meets start, I’m looking forward to bringing more preview-like content on the D3 scene. Be sure to be on the lookout for another preview just like this for the women, and other D3 content coming soon!