The Northwestern College men’s cross country team is ranked in the initial NAIA poll of the 2015 season.
The Red Raiders are 16th in the preseason coaches poll, earning the highest ranking in program history. Northwestern ended the 2014 season ranked 21st in the postseason poll. They join three other GPAC teams in the poll; Morningside (8), Dordt (25) and Concordia (RV).
Southern Oregon, the runner-up at the 2014 NAIA National Championship, holds down the top spot in the preseason poll, earning 17 of the 19 possible first place votes. Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) earned the other two first place votes and is second, followed by St. Francis (Ill.), Aquinas (Mich.) and Carroll (Mont.).
Northwestern, once again under the direction of head coach Scott Bahrke, returns five of its top nine runners off a 2014 team that finished second in the GPAC and 21st at the NAIA Championship.
The Dordt College men’s cross country team was voted no. 25.
The Defenders took 129 points in the polling after finishing the 2014 season in the Others Receiving Votes category of the poll.
The Defenders return four of its top-five finishers from the 2014 GPAC Championship. Nick Vander Kooi (Junior; Fremont, Michigan), Stephan McNamara (Senior; Chatham, Ontario), Ryan McNamara (Senior; Chatham, Ontario) and Sam Wensink (Junior; Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin) head the list of returners that ran to a third place finish at last year’s GPAC Championship. Vander Kooi qualified for the NAIA National Championship last season and is bidding for his third trip to the National Meet held this year in Charlotte, North Carolina on November 21.
“It is fun to see the respect the men’s and women’s teams have earned the past few seasons manifesting in their preseason rankings,” said Dordt College Cross Country Coach Nate Wolf. “It is a testament to the strength of the GPAC and how both teams finished last year within the conference and at the national meet. However, while preseason recognition is a great compliment, we need to stay healthy, stay focused, and keep working to earn those ranking throughout the season and ultimately end the season where we want to.”
The Defenders open the season on September 4 at the Augustana Invite in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Dordt will run in five meets before the GPAC Championship on November 7 in Crete, Nebraska.