Cross country is the name of the autumnal racing game
🏃 Going the distance
The GIST: Cross country (aka XC) is the name of the autumnal racing game. There are a whopping 1062 women’s and 992 men’s programs across Divisions I (DI), II, and III, making it one of the NCAA’s most popular sports. All that collegiate competition is fertile ground for breeding future pros, from Olympians to marathoners.
How it works: Teams compete in a handful of multi-school meets throughout the regular season, with top squads often crisscrossing the country to run in the most competitive meets. Women’s races are 6 km, while men’s are 8 km — although there’s a growing equity movement to make both distances 8 km.
- Each race crowns an individual champ — the fastest runner, obviously — and a team victor. As in other racing sports (rowing, swimming, etc.), runners earn team points based on their individual finishing places.
- While an institution’s men’s and women’s teams often travel and train together, they’re considered separate squads in different sports. And speaking of different sports, many XC athletes rep their school’s track & field teams, too. Tough.
Women to know: The NCAA’s awarded women’s XC trophies since 1981, and Villanova owns a school-leading nine thanks to a stunning six straight ’ships from 1989 (Taylor’s Version) to 1994. But the current powerhouse is back-to-back defending champs NC State, whose recent domination is partly due to legendary senior and 2022 individual champ Katelyn Tuohy.
Men to know: It’s a similar story on the fellas’ side — after 84 years of nattys, Arkansas leads with 11 titles, all snagged between 1984 and 2000. However, today’s royalty is Northern Arizona, who’s won six of the last seven titles, including last year’s dramatic tiebreaker.
- The reigning men’s individual winner, Charles Hicks, hails from Stanford, and he’ll be back to try and lead his Cardinal beyond their 2022 fourth-place team finish this season.