In a vote by the conference head coaches, the Northern Arizona men's and women's cross country teams were voted the unanimous favorites to sweep the 2020 Big Sky championships in the preseason polls released Wednesday.
The Lumberjacks were picked to defend their conference championships, receiving all 11 first-place votes for 121 total points in the polls between the two crews. Head coaches were allowed to vote for their own teams in the polls.
The NAU men's team is coming off a 2019 season in which it placed second overall at the NCAA meet following its fourth consecutive and 29th all-time Big Sky title. The Lumberjacks return six of their seven runners who competed at the national championships a year ago, including the All-American duo of Drew Bosley and Abdihamid Nur.
Bosley, the reigning Big Sky individual champion and Freshman of the Year, placed a team-best 22nd at the NCAAs and was followed by Nur, who came in 33rd.
Meanwhile, the women's team returns a pair of All-Conference runners in Pipi Eitel and Taryn O'Neill off the 2019 conference championship squad. Eitel and O'Neill placed fifth and sixth respectively at last year's Big Sky meet to lead the Jacks to their 21st all-time conference title and third in the last four years.
The women concluded the season at the national meet for the first team bid since 2008, placing 14th overall.
On the men's side, Weber State was voted second in the poll with 106 points followed by Montana State (97 points) and Southern Utah (94) to round out the top four.
Southern Utah's women's team is the preseason No. 2 with 100 points. Weber State (96) and Idaho (90) are third and fourth respectively.
The 2020 Big Sky championship meet is currently scheduled to be hosted by Portland State on Oct. 30.
The Lumberjacks received one first-place vote and were tied for second in the 2020 Big Sky Conference Preseason Coaches Poll released Wednesday. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.
The Lumberjacks totaled 86 points total for a tie with Weber State behind Northern Colorado, the defending Big Sky champions. The Bears were the unanimous pick to defend their conference title, claiming 10 first-place votes for 100 points in the poll.
Northern Colorado was nearly perfect in conference play last season in compiling a 17-1 league record -- its only loss was to NAU. NAU and Weber State tied for second in the regular-season standings at 13-5.
Montana State was fourth in the preseason poll with 69 points and was followed by Sacramento State and Idaho with 64 and 50 points, respectively, in fifth and sixth.
Portland State and Montana tied for seventh with 40 points ahead of Southern Utah (38 points), Idaho State (19) and Eastern Washington (13) slotting in ninth, 10th and 11th, respectively.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the schedule was reduced from 18 matches to a 16-match conference slate -- with only the top four teams advancing to the conference championship tournament hosted by Northern Colorado on Nov. 24 and 25. The four tournament qualifiers will be half of the 2019 eight tournament teams.
Led by their lone senior Heaven Harris, the Lumberjacks are currently scheduled to open conference play at home in the Rolle Activity Center versus Sacramento State on Sept. 25 and 26. The weekend will be the first of eight conference weekends during which Big Sky teams will play the same opponent on consecutive days at the same site.
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