11. Alabama Crimson Tide
Coach: Dan Waters
Notable Departures: Antibahs Kosgei, Robbie Farnham-Rose
Notable Additions: Alfred Chelanga, Vincent Kiprop, Gilbert Kigen
Projected Scoring Five:
Alfred Chelanga (SR) [TSR#18], Vincent Kiprop (JR) [TSR#21],
Gilbert Kigen (JR) [TSR#24], Josh Short (SO), Evan Prizy (SR),
I've been waiting for a while now to post #11 mainly because of how new and exciting this team is. The Alabama Crimson Tide have entered the upper echelon of elite teams since last cross country season after securing three major transfers (Chelanga, Kiprop, and Kigen). Much like when LeBron James joined the Miami Heat in 2010, Alabama has created a "super team" with their "Big Three" as the focal point of this squad.
We could go back and review Alabama's 2016 cross country season, but when you consider how much has changed since then, it may not be worth it to do so.
In 2016, Antibahs Kosgei & Robbie Farnham-Rose led the Crimson Tide throughout the entirety of the cross country season as they helped Alabama to a 5th place finish at SEC's and a 4th place finish at the South Region Championships. Although the team would end their season at regionals, Kosgei and Rose both qualified for NCAA's. Unfortunately, neither individual has any NCAA eligibility left for 2017.
In 2017, the Tide will return only their #4 and #5 men from last year's squad. However, it's the transfers that make this team so dangerous.
Alabama's top three are lethal and they have a long list of accomplishments that we detailed in our Top 50 rankings (which you can find here). Aside from their countless victories and mind-blowing times, there are a lot of other aspects of this top three that I really like.
Chelanga actually joined the Crimson Tide this past winter and saw plenty of success during both indoor and outdoor track. He became an All-American in the 5k during indoor season and ended the outdoor season with the fastest 10k time in the country (28:04). What's important about Chelanga's success is that he has proven that he can race and compete against some of the best D1 talent in the nation. That transition is not always easy and he has handled it incredibly well.
Chelanga's ability to adjust is a great sign for Vincent Kiprop who has a very similar resume and background. It also helps that this duo often raced each other during their time at the Division 2 level. That familiarity will certainly help Kiprop's transition as they train and race together.
As for Gilbert Kigen, he will be making a much larger jump as he moves from JUCO to D1. Yet, for someone that who has been described as the "Edward Cheserek of the NJCCA", that shouldn't be too difficult. Kigen has the times and titles to back up his Top 50 ranking as well as the hype that comes with it.
I could go on for days talking about how strong this top three is going to be, but if there's one thing you need to take away from this, it's that no other NCAA program has a trio as good as Alabama.
Although those three transfers may be exciting to talk about, the real success of this team will depend on how Josh Short and Evan Prizy perform throughout the season.
Admittedly, Short and Prizy need to boost their fitness by a significant margin if Alabama wants to defeat Arkansas and contend for the SEC title this year. Placing 43rd and 53rd at the conference championships isn't going to win a team title, even if the Tide take the top three spots. Of course, I'm sure that this something that the Tide have acknowledged and are working on. Luckily, with added motivation and an extra year of experience, an improvement from Prizy and Short is not only possible, it's probable.
It's tough to leave Alabama out of the top 10 teams when you have three guys in the Top 50. Still, with Kiprop and Kigen entering a new program as well as a large gap at the 4 and 5 spots, there is too much uncertainty and potential vulnerability to say that they are going to be better than those in the top 10 (at the moment).
Regardless of the weak spots, the men from Tuscaloosa are going to be incredibly exciting to watch this year. Their drastic upgrade in talent will certainly make the SEC much more competitive and give the conference the respect it deserves. Things are not getting any easier in the south...
While some may be skeptical and unsure, this team is set to prosper. If everything goes well and this team begins to click, we could potentially see this squad on the podium in late November.