9. Columbia Lions
- Owen Bishop (4:09 / 8:57 / 15:14)
- Jonathan Lauer (4:20 / 9:14 [3kst.] / 9:17 / 15:08)
- Soloman Fountain (4:10 / 9:19 / 15:20)
- Joseph Storey (1:52 / 4:18)
- Aaron Breene (1:53 / 2:31 / 4:18)
For the past five years or so, we have seen the Ivy League become one of the more competitive conferences in the NCAA. Heps individuals have taken their fitness to a new level, the coaching has improved, and cross country teams are becoming legitimate contenders to make NCAA's. This rise in competition has been led by teams like Columbia (as well as Penn) and some may argue that this ascent is due to consistently stronger recruiting classes.
As we review the incoming Lions for 2017, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to say that this is one of the best overall groups Columbia has had in a very long time when you factor in their personal bests, range, and potential contribution to team depth.
Out of these five individuals, Owen Bishop stands out as the star with personal bests that could make him a legitimate team contributor as just a freshman. With a slew of seniors now leaving (i.e. Jack Boyle, Max Norris, Rob Napoltiano), Columbia was left with a considerable gap in their longer distances. Although Napolitano will be succeeded by rising star Sam Ritz, it can't hurt to have another young talent like Bishop learning from an upperclassmen while also giving Columbia a weapon during cross country.
Bishop may be the focal point of this class, but it's the four other guys that give Columbia depth as well as a bright future. The mid-distance duo of Joseph Storey and Aaron Breene will only add to a thriving 800 group that includes up-and-coming names like Alek Sauer, Josiah Langstaff, and Willie Hall. All three of those guys were underclassmen as of last season and all have personal bests of 1:50 or faster. Adding Storey and Breene to this group makes Columbia a mid-distance program of the future. Penn Relays 4x800 champions in 2019? You heard it here first...
In the longer distances, Columbia gets a versatile and uber talented individual out of Jonathan Lauer who might be the biggest steal of the 2017 national recruiting class. Lauer's 9:14 steeplechase and proven ability to prosper on the cross country course makes him just as valuable as Bishop. Historically, the Lions haven't had too many standouts in the steeplechase with the exception of Casey Adams and Aubrey Myjer in 2015. The addition of Lauer gives Columbia four years to establish and develop a potential star in that very event.
Joining Bishop and Lauer in the longer distances is Soloman Fountain who rocks some very underrated personal bests including a 1600 PR of 4:10. Just like I mentioned with Bishop, it can't hurt to have another name learning and developing under an experienced and proven miler like Sam Ritz. Not only will he help in the mid-distances, but Fountain's strength in the longer distances also gives Columbia some stability and depth in a spot that was expected to be weak. Max Norris, Jack Boyle, and Rob Napolitano all just graduated and were finishers for the Lions in last year's Northeast Regional meet. Trying to replace those shoes (or spikes) will be a large task to handle.
This Columbia program is still young and it may take time to develop and mature these recruits before the Lions make a run for another Heps title and potentially qualify for NCAA's. That would not be a crazy idea to consider as a solid portion of Columbia's top runners would still have another year of eligibility in 2018.