6. Syracuse Orangemen
- Noah Affolder (4:07 / 8:16 / 9:06 [3kSt.] / 8:46 / 14:18)
- Nate Henderson (4:11 / 8:24 / 9:01 / 14:59)
- Steve Schulz (2:33 / 4:18 / 9:44 [3kSt.] / 9:03 / 15:23)
- Matt Cavallaro (9:39 / 15:57)
There are very few programs in the NCAA that can develop young talent like Syracuse can. Justyn Knight, Colin Bennie, Philo Germano, and Aidan Tooker have all found great success during their first few seasons with the Orangemen and there are likely other talented individuals who are primed for a breakout season.
The men in orange and blue will be very strong in 2017 as they are able to return five of their top seven from last year's NCAA XC championships. Of course, there are still crucial scorers that need to be replaced and these incoming recruits may be able to help with that.
One of the biggest recruitment stories in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions was when New York distance star Noah Affolder verbally committed to Syracuse during his junior year of high school. The Great Edinburgh cross country champion has shown that he is one of the best distance runners the nation has to offer which will make him a perfect fit for the 2015 NCAA cross country team title winners.
Affolder may have proven success on the grass, but his personal bests on the track rank among some of the best ever in high school history. His personal best time of 8:16 is the 16th fastest high school indoor 3k ever. For the 2 mile, if you include 3200 conversions, Affolder ranks 9th all-time.
While his times are impressive, his ability to win is unlike any other. This past indoor season, we saw Noah attempt the rare DMR / mile / 800 / 4x800 quadruple at the Pennsylvania indoor state championships where he earned three golds and one silver. These weren't tactical races either. It took four honest efforts to get those wins.
In case I haven't clarified enough, Noah Affolder is really good.
But throughout his time in Pennsylvania, there was only one individual that could truly threaten Affolder's spot at the top. That individual is Nate Henderson who just so happens to be Affolder's future teammate.
Henderson is a rare talent with strong PR's and has the ability to successfully execute different racing styles. He pushed for an aggressive pace at Penn Relays en route to an 8:24 PR and then threw down a wicked kick in the PA 3200 state title race to upset Noah's little brother Sam with a time of 9:01. The kid is incredibly consistent and has often run the 1600/3200 double with impressive end results. As someone who lives in PA and follows the high school running scene, I can't remember the last time Henderson had a "bad" race.
Steve Shulz is just as impressive with strong PR's in a wide range of events. His experience in the steeplechase will make him and Affolder a dangerous duo that could grow alongside the rising Syracuse sophomore Aidan Tooker. Shulz's addition to the Syracuse roster will help grow the already unfathomable depth they have.
Matt Cavallaro is the last name to mention of this group. I must admit that his PR's are considerably slower than his fellow recruits and I'm a bit surprised to see him with the rest of these names. However, times don't always tell the story. Cavallaro has helped lead a national-caliber high school distance program (CBA) for the past few seasons and has had some great performances at big-time meets like NXN Northeast (21st overall).
Coach Fox has also been known to give walk-on opportunities to guys like Cavallaro. Just look at the success they've had with a borderline recruit in Philo Germano. The same logic could apply to Cavallaro and he could be the next great breakout star in the NCAA.
Syracuse is going to need to develop another low-stick and find reliable individuals to secure the 6th and 7th spots on the varsity team. While other guys in the program might have a chance to earn a spot, the incoming recruits could certainly make some noise and have a significant impact on the future success of this team as just freshmen.