Updated: Jul 11, 2018
By: John Cusick
*Note: Cal Baptist has transitioned to D1 and will no longer compete in D2 athletics*
Independence Day has come and gone since we last wrote about the Division II running world, so why don’t we begin the summer by talking about the teams who we could see at the top of the podium in November? Admittedly, the teams we have listed were among the top five finishers from a year ago, but each of these teams are all bringing back key contributors to their lineups and have a history of consistently finishing in the top five. That means we are going to have repeat finishers at the top of the team podiums.
Before we do that however, let’s take a look at last year’s results.
Just in case you need a refresher...
Last year's champions were the familiar Adams State Grizzlies. However, it wasn’t the typical name that had led them over the past few years. Kale Adams finished 3rd overall for the Grizzlies who saw three athletes land inside the top ten for scoring. Elias Gedyon and Joshua Joseph finished 7th and 9th respectively. Lucio Ramirez finished 13th and Sydney Gidabuday finished 17th to essentially clinch their national title with five top 20 performances and a score of 44 points.
20 points behind ASU were the Lakers of Grand Valley State led by Zach Panning who finished 2nd overall and ultimately gave their team their most crucial point. Behind him was Enael Woldemichael in 6th and Wuoi Mach in 11th. Through three runners, the Lakers looked to be even keel with the Grizzlies. However, the Lakers didn’t have anyone else come in until 26th and 34th place.
Taking home bronze was Colorado School of Mines. Grant Colligan led the Orediggers with a 5th place finish while Logan Ramlet and Ricardo Ocampo finished 12th and 14th, respectively. Through three runners, it appeared that CSM may also be in the team title hunt. Unfortunately, their 4th and 5th scored finished 27th and 45th to ultimately end their hopes.
Western State ended up as the 4th place team while Cal Baptist rounded out the top five. However, it was the aforementioned top three who were really the talk of the weekend. Chico State looked to be a strong contender coming in, but fell to 9th after the day was all done.
So where does that leave us for the 2018 year? We’ve had athletes graduate and others exhaust their eligibility reshaping teams throughout. Without further ado, we present to you the super-early preseason contenders...
Adams State may only be getting better...
Let’s begin with the reigning champs who lose only one of their scoring five due to seniority (Lucio Ramirez). With only one man out of the equation, we should expect the Grizzlies to have another exciting season in 2018.
Kale Adams, the team leader at the 2017 national meet, is returning for his junior season. After a pair of successful indoor and outdoor track seasons, the Australian native is expected to be near the front once again come late 2018.
Elias Gedyon was a transfer from Trinidad State last year and made an immediate impact for the Grizzlies after finishing 7th in 2017. Promising runs in the DMR, 1600, and 1500 show that Gedyon is poised to be another key piece who will help Adams State maintain their run of dominance.
A surprising finish from Joshua Joseph helped propel the Grizzlies to the top after he finished 9th and made it three Grizzlies within the top 10. It will be important that he stays consistent and reappears within that top scoring group for the 2018 season.
I think it's fair to say that ASU's best runner is Sydney Gidabuday. Despite an extended injury that hampered his 2017 cross season, he was still able to perform well enough to score for the team. Expected to be healthy the entire season, Gidabuday should improve upon his best finish at NC, with a shot at winning the whole thing. If he can stay healthy, Gidabuday's reemergence at the front of their pack makes for a scary duo with Kale Adams.
ASU will have to fill another three spots to field a team of seven. Although they don’t have their 2018 roster up, three names who could fill those voids include Paddy Robb, Ro Paschal, and Hugo Nieves.
Mines can still contend, they just need to find their ideal lineup...
Next up are the Colorado School of Mines Orediggers. The champions from 2015, and 3rd place finishers last year will be back in 2018 with vengeance and a loaded cross-country roster.
The Orediggers, like the Grizzlies, return four of their five scorers from the previous season. Grant Colligan was the highest finisher for the Orediggers last year after he finished 5th overall. His performance followed a dominant regional performance that had the Mines congregation bubbling with excitement heading into the final weekend of 2017.
Logan Ramlet and Ricardo Ocampo finished 12th and 14th and were huge parts of why the Orediggers were even able to challenge for the team title. Ramlet was the biggest surprise as he improved upon his regional finish (13th) and helped keep the Orediggers title hopes alive.
Josh Hoskinson has steadily improved throughout his career. We saw him lower his personal bests by 16 seconds in the 3000 and 57 seconds in the 5000 (outdoor). With continued progression like that, Hoskinson should play a bigger role in the Orediggers run at a second team title.
With that being said, they will still be looking for another athlete to step up and fill the 5th spot. Ben Schneiderman was the 7th runner last year and will be returning for his senior season (barring any injuries). He looks to be the early name that will step in and help fill the gap for Mines. Others to consider include Mason Brevig, Josh Evans, Luke Julian, Miller Kettle, Trevor Lockman, and Vincent Workman (lots of names, yes, but with a heavy long-distance school such as Mines this is expected).
A year of experience could do wonders for GVSU...
The Grand Valley State Lakers will reenter the 2018 season as national contenders. They’re led by their ace Zach Panning who finished runner-up last year behind James Ngandu. Panning should be the presumed favorite coming into the fall to win the individual title. He won the 5000 this outdoor season and was (once again) 2nd in the 10,000 to Ngandu.
Enael Woldemichael will look to follow up a stellar freshman campaign that saw him place 6th in cross country (he was 23rd at his regional meet), 3rd in the 5000 during indoors, and 2nd at the same discipline during the spring season. If all goes well, Woldemichael could make a bid at the individual title as well. Talk about a scary 1-2 punch...
Abe Visser was also a freshman last year and finished 34th for the Lakers. Visser raced during the indoor season, but didn’t compete during outdoors. The expectations for him may be tempered as we’re not sure whether he missed this past spring due to injury or opted for a regular redshirt.
Sean Fontana was an Adams State transfer last year and was the Lakers’ 6th runner, but isn’t on their roster page for 2018.
Two names who will immediately will look to fill the void would most likely be Jacob Domagalski and possibly the likes of Dennis Mbuta. Domaglaski was the man outside looking in last year when it came to Nationals. He was the Lakers’ 8th runner at the GLIAC Championships and will most likely be called upon after the departure of some many veterans.
Dennis Mbuta is an interesting name because he’s more of a mid-distance athlete. However, a strong summer program could do wonders for Mbuta in the fall and could help him progress on the track once the cross country season is finished. Regardless of who is a part of the Lakers’ scoring five, they’ll be in contention this fall.
Cal Baptist has arsenal of runners to choose from...
The Cal Baptist Lancers placed 5th last year and should likely improve upon that this upcoming year by returning six of their top seven.
Last year, the Lancers were led by their stud freshman McMarshall Hartzenburg who finished 24th at the national meet. Hartzenburg returned for the outdoor season where he narrowly missed the national meet in the 5000 after running 14:17. He should improve upon that 24th place this year if everything goes to plan during the offseason.
Simon Bedard was the 2nd runner in for the Lancers. The rising junior saw success at 1500 meters during the outdoor season where he finished 6th at the national meet. He added a 14:18 5K performance showing us that his strength is going to be there.
Pierre-Louis Detourbe was the 3rd runner for CBU and also saw success during the outdoor season. He ran 9:00 for the 3000 meter steeplechase and finished 6th at the national meet. I would like to believe that all three of these athletes have progressed in their training as we enter the fall season. If so, there is a good chance that CBU will better their 5th place team finish from last year.
Dennis Messmer, Michael Lowrie, and Jayden Emerson will join Bedard and Detourbe to provide a vast array of experience that other teams don’t have. If all goes right, the Lancers could find themselves within the top three this fall.
Western State has a Big 3, but can they round out their top five?
The last team we are going to talk about are the Western State Mountaineers. They finished 4th at last year’s championship with surprise performances from a handful of athletes.
At the 2017 National Championship meet, Ahmed Jama and Ross Husch finished 24th and 25th overall. Both of these men found success during the outdoor season after reaching the national meet. Jama was featured in the 10,000 meters while Husch raced the 1500.
Taylor Stack was 41st last year after a poor second-half of the race, but will look to bounce back in 2018. Stack qualified for both the 3000 and 5000 during indoors and followed that up by qualifying for the steeplechase during the outdoor season. Stack should (and most likely will) finish up with Jama and Husch, giving the Mountaineers a solid 1-2-3 combo.
Despite the talented low-sticks, the Mountaineers did lose two important pieces in Bryant Byrd and Dawid Konieczek. With the 2018 season fast approaching, Western will be looking to find reinforcements to fill those gaps. Luke Miller and Marc Marcano were a part of the team last year so look for them to improve and pick up points.
More to come...
There you have it folks. Those are the top five contenders I have for this upcoming year. We’ll keep track of these squads and other teams throughout the country as the season progresses. Things are sure to change (as they always do) within the running world. Make sure you stay tuned for the rest of the year’s updates!
We hope to have an individual leaderboard tracker as well. That will be introduced when the time is right.
‘Til next time, Striders.