Updated: Jun 29, 2018
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Let's give credit where credit is due. The other teams in our top 10 had phenomenal years when it came to recruiting. Indiana and Michigan secured a huge amount of depth. Oregon and Colorado gained some explosive talents. Syracuse and Penn State found recruits who perfectly matched their training and coaching philosophies. Stanford, Georgetown, and Virginia showed that they are building their rosters for future success.
Yet, for Notre Dame, this recruiting class is different. We could go on and on about the endless accomplishments and achievements of this group (and we certainly will). However, it's what these incoming freshmen represent that makes them so special. The departure of coach Alan Turner, graduating a veteran leader like Jacob Dumford, the endless fight to succeed in the ultra-stacked ACC...all of this is not easy to overcome.
Of course, that's not to say that Notre Dame hasn't seen success. Their men's DMR finished 2nd at the Indoor National Championships this past winter while Yared Nuguse showed why he was one of the best young milers in the entire NCAA. Not only that, but the rest of this roster is incredibly young and still has a lot of time to build, grow, and progress over the next few years.
As exciting as the future may be, the Fighting Irish still need a few more weapons to guarantee success two to three years down the line. That's where these nine recruits come in...
If we're being honest with ourselves, the success of this group is based off of four men. That's not to say that the other five can't be successful, but most of the attention will land on Andrew Delvecchio, Dylan Jacobs, Danny Kilrea, and Zach Kreft.
Or as I like to refer to them as, "The Big Four".
Let's start with Delvecchio, the mid-distance stud who couldn't have come at a better time. The loss of mid-distance stars like Elijah Silva and Jacob Dumford are a huge blow for a Notre Dame team that relied so heavily on them for their DMR last year. Luckily, Delvecchio will bring some much needed speed to the green and gold with strong personal bests of 1:52 and 2:29. He could very easily be a key DMR leg and potential ACC scorer with that kind of mid-distance success.
Of course, it would be criminal not to mention Delvecchio's 4:09 from earlier this spring at the Dogwood Classic. At the time, it was a five second improvement on his previous personal best. It turned out to be enough of a confidence booster for him to win the Virginia state title.
As impressive as Delvecchio is, he is just the tip of the iceberg for the Notre Dame Big Four. Zach Kreft is an interesting name to bring up. The Buckeye Valley standout has been at the forefront of the distance running renaissance in Ohio and was a major reason why the state continues to get more competitive. The four-time state champion has made some serious noise both on the track and on the grass. With personal bests of 4:10 and 8:58, he's already considered to be one of the better recruits in the nation. When you add in a 14:29 5k PR from last fall, he becomes one of the BEST recruits in the nation.
However, it's not just his times that make him an attractive addition. Kreft was 6th at the NXN Midwest regional race (barely missing Nationals) and placed 2nd at the Footlocker Midwest regional. He would eventually go on to place 12th at Footlocker Nationals and earn his first All-American honor. Kreft will be a major player during cross country as Notre Dame looks to develop scorers at the front of their pack.
As we move on to Danny Kilrea, the accolades don't get any less impressive. With personal bests of 4:12 and 8:56, he is yet another dynamic runner capable of scoring for the Irish early in his career. The two-time Illinois state champ and Great Edinburgh XC Challenge participant can seemingly do it all with mind-blowing consistency. How consistent you ask? How about being a three-time NXN qualifier? How about qualifying for both NXN and Footlocker Nationals last fall? How about running under 15 minutes for 5k three different times? Yeah, he's that good...
Kilrea didn't just qualify for those meets either. His NXN finishes have gone from 45th to 13th to 5th while his Footlocker finish earned him the bronze medal. Add that in with a 14:36 5k PR and you have one of the most talented cross country recruits that the nation has to offer (and that's not an exaggeration).
As if Notre Dame couldn't get any better, we finally get to Dylan Jacobs from Sandburg High School. You may recognize the name of that school because it's the same high school where 3:59 high school miler and Footlocker national champ Lukas Verzbicas attended. Oddly enough, Dylan Jacobs is ALSO a Footlocker national champ.
Funny how these things work out, huh?
The Illinois native has been an absolute stud in nearly every race he toed the line for. His 4:07 and 9:09 personal bests are top ranked times that show how productive he can be even if he isn't on the cross country course. When Jacobs IS on the cross country course, that's a different story...
Jacobs has qualified for a cross country national championship five different times. In 2015, he qualified for NXN. In 2016 and 2017, he qualified for both NXN and Footlocker. During his junior and senior years, he finished 19th and 13th at NXN and 11th and 1st at Footlocker. That's four All-American performances in two years of cross country. That level of success is unheard of at the high school level.
Collectively, the trio of Jacobs, Kilrea, and Kreft make up the most fearsome trio of cross country runners that the nation has ever(?) seen. These guys won't just be scorers for Notre Dame in their first year. It is very possible that they end up being top ACC finishers or even potential NCAA qualifiers.
In case you haven't put the pieces of the puzzle together yet, this trio placed 12th, 3rd, and 1st at Footlocker Nationals. Kreft may have barely missed out on qualifying for NXN, but Kilrea and Jacobs would still go on to place 13th and 5th in Portland. That is firepower that simply can't be matched...
What may be even tougher to comprehend is that the rest of these additions would be deemed as a good recruiting class for other programs around the NCAA. The other five rising freshmen bring in plenty of depth and promising futures. These are recruits who can be successful if they Trust The Process (sorry, the Sixers fan in me is coming out).
Matt Carmody is a 15:17 5k runner who has been a top contender in Iowa over the past few seasons. He has even collected two runner-up finishes in his state championship performances.
Luke Phillips will complement Delvecchio with additional 400 and 800 speed. His 1:56 PR (as reported on Twitter) is solid, but it will take some time for him to improve and become a competitive collegiate. Luckily, Notre Dame has been known for developing strong middle distance talent and I don't see that changing any time soon.
*We incorrectly listed Luke Phillips as "Ethan Phillips". That has since been edited.*
Amani "Skip" Morrell will be staying close to home when he begins classes at Notre Dame. The South Bend native has seen great success in the 3200 with a PR of 9:15 and a 10th place finish at the NXN Midwest regional. He'll need to become a bit more consistent with his times and performances. However, if can be someone that Notre Dame can rely on, he'll be a great future piece in their top seven.
Matt Vietzen we'll provide some help in the 1500/mile with a personal best of 4:16. He was an Illinois state medalist who had never broken 4:20 until his senior year. He may not have jaw-dropping cross country accolades, but his personal best of 14:54 (for three miles) roughly converts to a 15:30 5k. There is a lot of untapped potential in Vietzen and I think he's a project worth working on. It'll be interesting to see how Coach Carlson opts to use him in future lineups.
Jack McNabola may be one of the more overlooked recruits with the Big Four taking most of the attention. McNabola is one of the better distance runners in the state of Illinois. His 4:19/9:14 personal bests complement his Illinois state title from earlier this spring and his 3rd place finish at the Illinois cross country state championships this past fall. If McNabola's senior year is any indication of what we will see from him in the future, then he may be the most underrated pickup of this entire group.
I could continue to list all of the achievements and times of this recruiting class, but I wouldn't do justice of explaining their overall level of talent. The Notre Dame Big Four have proven to be some of the best high schoolers in the nation who are capable of competing at the collegiate level. Even without the other five recruits, Notre Dame would still have the best recruiting class in the NCAA.
Together, these nine recruits could be the start of a new and exciting era in Notre Dame distance running. There is still work to do and nothing is given, but the Fighting Irish could have a dynasty in the making...