Three-time NCAC men's cross country champion Wabash and 12-time women's cross country champion Allegheny have been tabbed as the favorites to win their respective 2016 league titles based on pre-championship balloting by the conference coaches.
The 2016 NCAC Cross Country Championships will be held this Sunday, October 30th, at The Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Indiana, with DePauw University serving as the host institution. The men's 8K race is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m., followed by the women's 6K race at 12:00 p.m. CLICK HERE to access DePauw's championship website.
The Little Giants, who last won the league title in 2014, earned seven of the nine first-place votes cast by league coaches to accumulate 79 total points at the top of the poll. Allegheny, which earned its league-leading 12th title last fall, earned the final two first-place votes and finished second in the poll with 73 points. DePauw checked in at third with 64 points, followed by Ohio Wesleyan (48), Oberlin (47), Denison (37), Kenyon (24), Wooster (18) and Wittenberg (15).
The Allegheny women, who won their first league title last year since 2007, narrowly edged out the Oberlin Yeowomen for the top spot in the women's pre-championship poll. The Gators collected five of the first-place votes cast by league coaches for 60 total points, while Oberlin earned the final three first-place votes and finished two points behind with 58. DePauw locked down the third position with 47 points, followed by Kenyon (43), Ohio Wesleyan (32), Denison (21), Wittenberg (18) and Wooster (9).
There will be a first-time NCAC individual men's champion in 2016; however, plenty of runners return to the field with championship experience, including three first-team performers from a year ago. Allegheny senior Dan Cheung (Northbrook, IL/Glenbrook North) leads that list of runners after he finished fourth overall in 2015 with an 8K time of 25:25.7. Wabash junior Colin Rinne (Westfield, IN/Westfield) led the Little Giants at last year's championship in fifth-place (25:27.8), while Ohio Wesleyan junior John Sotos (Dublin, OH/Coffman) also returns to the field after finishing sixth with a time of 25:29.8. The Little Giants will also look to a strong senior class to propel them to the top of the team standings, led by two-time 2016 NCAC Runner of the Week selection Mason McKinney (Lafayette, IN/McCutcheon). The 2016 field will also include DePauw sophomore Paul Christian (Glen Ellyn, IL/Glenbard West), who was the 2015 NCAC Newcomer of the Year as the top freshman finisher in 12th-place with a time of 26:00.4.
The race for the 2016 NCAC women's individual title will be one of the tightest in recent history as the top three runners from last year's field will again be in action this year, led by OWU senior Sarah Fowler (Mt. Vernon, OH/Fredericktown) who won the 2015 title with a 6K time of 22:32.4. Her top competition will be identical to last year with the senior duo of Allegheny's S.J. Guillaume (Ridgefield, CT/Ridgefield) and DePauw's Claudia Monnett (Cloverdale, IN/Cloverdale). Guillaume finished second overall in 2015 with a time of 22:41.5, while Monnett finished third in 22:52.0. The Gators also had a trio of runners place 8-10 in the final standings last year, led by senior Monica Patrick (Salem, OH/South Range) just missing out on All-NCAC first-team honors in eighth with a time of 23:18.5. In addition, Oberlin sophomore Linnea Halsten (Madison, WI/East) aims for her second-straight, first-team performance after earning NCAC Newcomer of the Year laurels last year. She occupied the final spot on the 2015 first team as the top freshman finisher in the race in seventh with a time of 23:08.9.
2016 NCAC Cross Country Pre-Championship Coaches' Polls