Weekend’s Top Ten Matchups

Today’s news roundup is all about the upcoming weekend. Here are what look to be the best head-to-head competitions.

10. Guelph vs Record Books
CIS Championships
This Saturday is the Canadian Interuniversity Sport cross country championships, at the University of Western Ontario in London, and the overwhelming favorites are the Guelph Gryphons. The Guelph teams already hold record winning streaks of six in a row (men) and seven in a row (women), and it’s a near-lock for both streaks to be extended. For a roundup of the CIS’s four conference meets from two weeks ago, visit Montreal Endurance.

9. Iowa State vs Indiana
NIRCA Championship men’s race
This Saturday will see the National Intercollegiate Running Club cross country championships in Hershey, Pennsylvania. For the best clubs this is a highly competitive affair, and the men’s team race could be the best battle ever in the short history of the organization. Iowa State was second at last year’s championship and returns all seven runners, and hasn’t lost this year. Indiana, however, appears to have the firepower to knock them off; they bring three different contenders for the individual title. For a deeper preview, check out clubrunning.org.

8. Michigan vs Michigan State vs Toledo vs Notre Dame
Great Lakes regional women’s race
For the first time ever, the NCAA Division I regional meets will be held on Friday. In each of the nine regional meets, the top two teams will automatically qualify to the NCAA Championships, and then it comes down to at-large bids to fill out the field. Winning isn’t all that important, especially for those teams who think they might be able to win the national meet next week, but “bubble” teams are going all-out. Big Ten champions Michigan look to be in the strongest position, but Toledo is a program on the upswing. On the other hand, Rocket head coach and friend of the blog Kevin Hadsell will be the first to tell you that the athletes have to perform on race day in order to get it done. There will probably be only two at-large bids out of this region. For a deeper preview, go to Let’s Run.

7. Texas A&M vs the board
NCAA Championships men’s selection announcement
The Aggies have built a competitive distance program in the last few years, but aren’t quite in the elite category yet. Currently ranked #29 in the nation, the latest Kolas Calculator has them as the last team making the cut. They’ll be hard pressed to get an auto qualifier from their South Central region, facing off against #5 Texas and #10 Arkansas. So they’ll just have to get that third place and then sit and wait and hope.

6. Florida State vs Georgia vs Florida
South regional men’s race
There will be no at-large bids out of this region, so finishing in the top two is essential. The Gators return six of seven runners from last year’s NCAA-qualifying team yet still are figured to be on the outside looking in. For a deeper preview, check out Let’s Run.

5. Oklahoma State vs Minnesota
Midwest regional women’s race
#2-ranked Iowa State should win this without any real effort, but second place is up for grabs between #21 Oklahoma State and #28 Minnesota. Only 31 teams get to the NCAA Championships, and while rankings have nothing to do with qualifying, it does give you an idea of how precarious a position both teams face. Finish second and you’re going to the Big Dance, finish third and you have to nervously await the announcement. For a deeper preview, go to Let’s Run.

4. Eastern Kentucky vs Virginia Tech vs Virgina
Southeast Regional men’s race
This is another one of those regions where an at-large bid is not guaranteed, so the top two places are at a premium. It’s hard to imagine #15 Eastern Kentucky not claiming one of those two, meaning that in-state rivals Virginia and Virginia Tech are going to be going at it in a big way. They took the top two places at the ACC Championships two weeks ago. For a deeper preview, go to Let’s Run.

3. San Francisco vs UCLA vs Portland
West regional women’s race
This is doubtlessly the deepest women’s regional race, with four top ten teams (Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, and Washington). Barring disaster, all will easily qualify to the NCAA Championships. But it’s always on the edges of qualifying where things get interesting, and here that battle is between San Francisco and Portland (1st and 2nd in the West Coast Conference) and UCLA (6th in the Pac-12). One or two of these will get to the NCAAs, but probably not three. For a deeper preview, go to Let’s Run.

2. Arizona State vs UCLA vs Washington vs Cal Poly
West regional men’s race
This regional race is probably the deepest among the men, with Stanford, Portland and Oregon almost assuredly qualifying to the NCAA Championships with no problems. After that, the at-large bids get a bit dicier. Whoever finishes last out of these four teams probably isn’t going to the NCAA Championships, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that only one of them makes it. The three Pac-12 teams were separated by just ten point at their championship meet two weeks ago. The Wood Report figures Big West champions Cal Poly to have a shot at it, too. For a deeper preview, go to the Wood Report and scroll to the bottom.

1. Merga vs Gebremeskel vs Bett
Cross Internacional de Atapuerca men’s race
On Sunday in Spain, the IAAF’s cross country permit series kicks off with the Cross Internacional de Atapuerca. The men’s field looks great, with three tough runners as the headliners: Imane Merga (Ethiopia), the defending world cross country champion, Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia), the reigning Olympic bronze medalist at 10k, and Emmanuel Bett (Kenya), the fastest 10k runner of 2012. For a deeper preview, check out IAAF.org.

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