By: Sam Knehans, Communications & Sports Information Intern
LAWRENCE, Kan. — The 58th Annual NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championships will take place Saturday at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan. This is the first year that the race, hosted by the Lawrence Sports Corporation and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC), will be held at the course.
Built in 1974, Rim Rock Farm has been home to three Big Eight Championships (1983, 1991 and 1995), the NCAA Division I and II Championships (1998), a Big 12 Championship (2006) and countless high school state championships.
The 8-kilometer men's race will begin at 10:30 a.m. CST, with the 5-kilometer women's race to follow at 11:45 a.m. CST. The Championships Award Ceremony will be held at Abe and Jake's Landing—8 East 6th Street, Lawrence, Kan. 66044—and will begin at approximately 2:30 p.m.
A total of 321 student-athletes from 96 schools will vie for the men's individual and team titles. The 32-team field is comprised of 21 conference, independent and unaffiliated grouping champions; one conference, independent and unaffiliated grouping runner-up and ten at-large selections. Ninety-seven individual qualifiers, representing 64 institutions, will also compete in the race.
Eight of the top 10 teams from last year's National Championships in Fort Vancouver, Wash., led by defending national champion St. Francis (Ill.) and defending national runner-up Southern Oregon, will compete in Lawrence. Like last year, Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) champion Southern Oregon enters the race as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation, hoping to reclaim the national title after finishing third in 2011 and second in 2012.
The Raiders are led by CCC individual titlist and two-time Runner of the Week (Oct. 2, Oct. 30) Eric Avila. The junior, who has supplanted returning All-American Tyler Vandyke as the Raiders top runner, will be looking to improve on his 52nd-place finish from the 2012 National Championships.
No. 2 Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), which has been ranked in every poll this season, cemented its status as a national title contender by knocking off St. Francis in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) meet. The Tigers are led by a trio of juniors—Mitchell Dale, Ethan Gallagher and Ian Lofgren—who all finished among the top 10 individuals in the CCAC, propelling Olivet Nazarene to the conference title.
The No. 3 Fighting Saints, who ran a faster combined time than Olivet Nazarene at the CCAC meet but lost the conference title by one point, will look to defend their national title. St. Francis is led by Dylan Reyes and Runner of the Week (Sept. 18) Mike Blaszczyk, who finished second and third at the CCAC meet and were 60th and 23rd, respectively, at the 2012 National Championships.
Frontier Conference individual titlist and two-time Runner of the Week (Sept. 25, Oct. 23) Sam Atkin, who ran the fastest 8k qualifying time of 23:53, anchors the No. 4 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) team, which qualified by winning the Frontier Conference meet. Atkin, who finished 37th at the 2011 National Championships, did not race for the Warriors in the 2012 National Championships.
No. 6 Aquinas (Mich.) remains a national title contender after besting the 30-team NAIA Preview Meet field on Oct. 12 at Rim Rock Farm. The Saints outpaced a field that contained three top 10 teams from last year's National Championships and 12 teams that will be competing in the 2013 National Championships on Saturday.
No. 7 Cal State San Marcos, No. 10 Shawnee State (Ohio), No. 11 British Columbia, No. 12 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 15 The Master's (Calif.) are familiar programs that will also be in the mix for the national title, after finishing among the top 10 last season.
Returning All-Americans Adam Godwin of Oklahoma Baptist, Kyle Anderson of Spring Arbor (Mich.), Western Nelson of Cal State San Marcos and Grant Gunneson of Aquinas should be among the competitors for the individual title. Paul Adams, an individual qualifier from Oregon Tech who was named Runner of the Week on Oct. 9, could also be a challenger.
Godwin is the favorite, having bested the 272-runner NAIA Preview Meet field on Oct. 12 at Rim Rock Farm with an 8k time of 24:34. He earned Runner of the Week honors on Oct. 16 for the performance. Godwin is also the top returner from last year's field, having placed 10th.
For the complete list of Men's Cross Country Team Qualifiers, click here.
For the complete list of Men's Cross Country Individual Qualifiers, click here.
For all other information regarding the Men's Cross Country National Championships, click here.