14. Boise State Broncos
Coach: Corey Ihmels
Notable Departures: N/A
Notable Additions: Ahmed Muhumed, Leif Everson, Matthew Park
Projected Scoring Five:
Yusuke Uchikoshi (SR) [TSR#19], Michael Vennard (SR), Miler Haller (Rs. SO),
Andrew Rafla (Rs. JR), Ahmed Muhumed (FR)
One of the more dangerous team in the NCAA is Boise State. The Broncos have built an arsenal of top-tier talent that are capable of competing with some of the best in the nation while also having the depth to securely stay at the top of the results. In 2017, there may not be a team more complete than BSU.
Last fall, we saw the Broncos begin their season at Roy Griak where they would face off with several conference and regional rivals. Despite the harsh conditions and difficult hills, BSU thrived as they placed third overall behind only Portland and Iowa State. Yusuke Uchikoshi had an outstanding race by placing 7th overall while the other four scorers placed 13, 24, 31, and 37. It was a strong first race for the men in blue.
While the success at Roy Griak was exciting, the challenges at Wisconsin weren’t nearly as easy. Uchikoshi and Miler Haller would once again lead the team by placing 33rd and 36th overall. Unfortunately, none of the final three scorers would break into the top 100 as they finished 109th, 117th, and 118th. The Broncos would finish 15th overall in a field where they could have been top 10. Michael Vennard, the Boise State star from 2016, was not in the lineup.
With the regular season behind them, the Broncos turned their focus to the Mountain West Conference Championships (which they would host). It was there that Uchikoshi delivered on the big stage as he crossed the line in first to take the title over Jerrell Mock of Colorado State. The Broncos would follow suit with finishes of 3, 8, 12, and 17. Boise State would go on to upset Colorado State and take the team title by 7 points.
The difference maker in that meet? Michael Vennard, who seemingly returned back to top form with a 3rd place finish.
Jump to the West Region Championships and the narrative quickly changes. No one on Boise State had a great day with team finishes of 21, 38, 40, 54, and 66. Michael Vennard? He was a DNF once again...
The Broncos would finish 7th overall and although the region was incredibly deep, Boise State still had enough Kolas points to get themselves, as well as the teams ahead of them, into NCAA’s.
The Broncos ended their season at NCAA’s with a 19th place finish to cap off the season. Uchikoshi finished an incredible 18th overall (15th in the team scoring) while the rest of his teammates struggled to close the gaps as they finished 76, 88, 141, and 158. It wasn’t the finish Boise State was looking for.
2016 was a roller coaster season for BSU as consistency proved to be the key weak spot of this program. Still, the positives that come with the upcoming 2017 season far outweigh any flaws the Broncos had last fall.
First off, it’s probably important to point out that every single member from last year’s top seven will be returning this year. That includes low-stick Yusuke Uchikoshi who has established himself as a clear front-runner in the NCAA. He’ll most likely be flanked by Miler Haller and Andrew Rafla who often found themselves at the #2 and #3 spots throughout the 2016 season.
While Uchikoshi and Haller do make a formidable 1-2, it’s the success of Michael Vennard that will determine the direction of this team in 2017.
In 2015, Vennard was an absolute stud who placed 3rd at Roy Griak, 17th at the Wisconsin Invite, and 5th at the Mountain West Conference Championships. His youth caught up to him in the postseason, but the potential he showed caught the attention of fans around the NCAA. Unfortunately, 2016 was just not his year with a mix of poor finishes, two DNF’s, and one out-of-place 3rd place finish at the conference championships.
If Michael Vennard can replicate the success he had in 2015, Boise State all of the sudden becomes a very dangerous squad with two elite low-sticks.
The final scorer could be anyone as the Broncos are a team that boast depth far beyond five men with guys like Chandler Austin, Rhys Park, and incoming freshman Ahmed Muhumed. If I had to choose, I’m looking for Muhumed to have a major impact on this team this year. Underclassmen typically do pretty well with BSU and with personal best times of 8:25 (3k) and 14:56, Muhumed could be another key scorer as he develops under Coach Ihmels.
There are so many athletes on this team who are extremely undervalued and have the potential to be lethal scorers. Of course, they’re only an effective team if they can run well together on the same day. The Broncos must become much more consistent in 2017 if they want to be a top 10 team (which they are capable of doing).
Luckily, this is a program that doesn’t need to worry about replacing any low-sticks or building their depth. If they can continuously perform like they did at Roy Griak and the Mountain West Conference Championships, then this is a squad that could very easily challenge for a top two spot at regionals.