By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Nine of the top 11 teams held their positions from the first regular-season poll, including no movement among the top five, as St. Francis (Ill.) remains atop the rankings for the fourth-straight NAIA Men’s Cross Country Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Wednesday. The defending national champions claimed all 22 first-place votes and 622 points in the second regular-season edition.
St. Francis, who moves into a tie for ninth with former-member Black Hills State (S.D.) on the all-time No. 1 rankings list with four, has been inactive since winning the Calvin College Knight Invitational in Grand Rapids, Mich., Sept. 14. The Fighting Saints claimed the team title by a 32-point margin after four of their scoring five placed in the top 15. Mike Blaszczyk, who won NAIA National Runner of the Week honors for his performance, covered the 8-kilometer course in 24:36 to win the collegiate individual title.
Southern Oregon earned 601 total points to claim the No. 2 ranking. The Raiders face a tough test this coming weekend when they travel to Palo Alto, Calif., to compete in the Stanford (Calif.) Invitational.
Checking in at No. 3 with 575 points is Aquinas (Mich.). The Saints won the team title in the non-Division I section of the National Catholic Championships Sept. 20 in South Bend, Ind. Grant Gunneson led the team with a second-place time of 25:40, while Jacob Towne (26:08), Brendan Molony (26:21) and Zach Stepanovich (26:24) also finished among the top 15 runners. Aquinas will return to action Oct. 4 at the Lansing Community College Invitational in Lansing, Mich.
Rounding out the top five for the third-straight week are No. 4 British Columbia and No. 5 Shawnee State (Ohio) with 561 and 550 points, respectively. British Columbia has not raced since winning the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, Wash., Sept. 14, while the Bears took to the course last Friday at the Wake Forest Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C. Running against a field of entirely NCAA Division I programs, Shawnee State finished fifth out of six teams. Brad Liston was the Bears’ top finisher, crossing the line in fifth place with a time of 25:12.
Northwest Christian (Ore.), who vaulted from No. 22 to No. 15 this week, posted the largest positive movement within the poll. The Beacons finished second at the Cascade Collegiate Conference Preview in Caldwell, Idaho, trailing only No. 12 Eastern Oregon, but finishing ahead of then-No. 15 Oregon Tech. Chris Zirkle led Northwest Christian, taking fourth place with a time of 26:30.
Oregon Tech fell the farthest among ranked teams, dropping six places to No. 21.
Two newcomers joined the Top 25 this week: No. 22 Southwestern (Kan.) and No. 24 Emmanuel (Ga.). Southwestern returns to the poll after a one-week hiatus, while Emmanuel is making its first appearance since ranking No. 25 in the 2012 postseason edition.
Saint Mary (Kan.) and Indiana Wesleyan dropped out of the Top 25.
Thirteen conferences/independents/unaffiliated groups are represented in the second-regular season Top 25, led by four teams from the Cascade Collegiate Conference – Southern Oregon, Eastern Oregon, Northwest Christian and Oregon Tech.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences, independents and unaffiliated groups. For the entire 2013 Coaches’ Top 25 Poll schedule, click here.
NOTES: (All information dates back to 1999) No. 1 St. Francis (Ill.) is trying to become the fifth school in NAIA history to begin the season ranked No. 1 and go on to win the national championship… Life (Ga.) in 1999 and 2000, former-member Minot State (N.D.) in 2002, Virginia Intermont in 2005 and 06 and former-member Malone (Ohio) in 2007, 08 and 09 have all accomplished this… Since 1999, only one program has been ranked No. 1 for an entire season: Malone in 2007 and 08… No. 3 Aquinas (Mich.) has been ranked among the Top 25 in 128 consecutive polls, dating back to Aug. 22, 2000… Former-member Malone has the most No. 1 rankings with 38… Following Malone are Southern Oregon with 20, Life (Ga.) with 18 and Virginia Intermont with 15… Overall, 16 different programs have claimed the No. 1 spot in the poll… St. Francis is making its fourth appearance at No. 1… Two teams held the No. 1 ranking in 2012: St. Francis and Southern Oregon.
2013 NAIA Men’s Cross Country Coaches’ Top 25 Poll – No. 2 (Sept. 25)
|RANK||LAST TIME^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||St. Francis (Ill.) (22)||622|
|5||5||Shawnee State (Ohio)||550|
|T6||8||Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)||499|
|9||9||Cal State San Marcos||463|
|10||10||Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)||458|
|11||11||The Master's (Calif.)||419|
|15||22||Northwest Christian (Ore.)||311|
|16||16||Dickinson State (N.D.)||305|
Others Receiving Votes: Indiana Wesleyan 115; Saint Mary (Kan.) 114; Indiana Tech 112; Park (Mo.) 44; Saint Xavier (Ill.) 43; Missouri Valley 29; Vanguard (Calif.) 25; College of Idaho 15; Doane (Neb.) 3; SCAD Savannah (Ga.) 3.
^ 2013 NAIA Men’s Cross Country Coaches’ Top 25 Poll – No. 1