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When we talk about powerhouse distance programs, Colorado has to be in the discussion. In fact, they might be the first team that comes to mind. When you consider the success they've had over the past two decades it's easy to understand why that may be.
There are a variety of factors that have led to the Buffs becoming one of the best squads in the nation. Whether it's the challenging altitude, a culture obsessed with excellence, or the always talked about Wetmore Factor, you have to admit that Colorado has a recipe for success.
Of course, Mark Wetmore isn't just taking in hobby joggers and turning them into superstars. The Buffs have consistently recruited some of the past high school talent in the nation over the past few years and 2018 is certainly no different. If they're able to make it through a brutal training regime, progress and development is almost a guarantee.
Colorado isn't a team known for bringing in a ton of recruits like we saw with Georgetown and Michigan earlier in our rankings. Still, the guys that they are able to recruit often ranked at the very top of the nation.
Let's start with Jericho Cleveland, the mid-distance specialist out of New Mexico. Cleveland is a crazy talented miler who has put up multiple underrated performances throughout his career (specifically in his senior season). His 4:07 personal best may be impressive, but it's his finishes at nationally recognized meets that prove just how valuable he is. He won the 2017 Mt. Sac mile in 4:09 (4:07 through 1600), placed 3rd in the Adidas Boost Boston Games with a 4:08, and became an All-American at New Balance Indoor Nationals this past year (7th).
The five-time New Mexico state champ may have been an entertaining miler, but he was also capable of doing some damage on the cross country course. Cleveland attempted the Footlocker/NXN regional double in 2017 as well as 2018 and walked away with some impressive performances. This past cross country season, he finished 19th in the Footlocker West region and 12th in the NXN Southwest region (where he ran his 15:13 PR).
Cleveland brings consistency, the ability to win, range, and competitive times to a program that can fine-tune his raw talent. I like the potential edge he could give the Buffs in the future.
Cleveland may have great range from 800 to 5k, but Alex Scales might have the best range of this entire group. Just like we mentioned with Cole Johnson earlier in our rankings, Scales ran 49 seconds in the 400 and well under 15:30 in the 5k. The usefulness and versatility of a guy like that makes him a valuable addition to this group.
Scales may have a great combination of speed and stamina, but his resume is strong as well. He was a two-time Brooks PR invitee (in the 800), won the 800 at Arcadia during his junior year with a 1:50, and finished runner-up in the California State Championships 800 in 2017.
Colorado hasn't exactly been know for their depth in the mid-distance events. Scales could give them some much needed speed while still having a key role in the longer distances. It's one thing for a recruit to provide depth in one area of your roster. It's another thing for a recruit to provide depth in multiple areas of your roster. Could this rising freshman be the next Zach Perrin? Based on what we've seen so far, I don't think that it's out of the question.
The final name of this trio is Gabe Fendel, the high school superstar from Indiana who has mind-blowing personal bests. When you look at his resume, it's hard to talk about just one thing.
The three-time Brooks PR participant has unmatched experience when you look at his overall high school career. Much like future teammate Jericho Cleveland, Fendel often attempted the Footlocker/NXN regional double. In fact, he did that for three straight years in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Fendel's junior year (2016) would be the best cross country season he ever put together. Aside from establishing his jaw-dropping 5k PR of 14:47, he was one of the rare few who qualified for Nike Cross Nationals and Footlocker Nationals after placing 5th in the NXN Midwest regional and 3rd in the Footlocker Midwest regional. Fendel would go on to finish 28th at NXN and become an All-American at Footlocker with a 12th place finish.
Aside from his cross country accolades, Fendel's performances on the track validated just how talented he was. In 2017, he ran a 4:04 to win the Indiana state title and a 4:07 to finish 7th at the Brooks PR Invitational. In that same season, Fendel would race at Arcadia and run a phenomenal 8:50 personal best in the two mile. During the winter of that same year, he ran 8:58 in the New Balance Indoor Nationals two mile to finish 5th overall and earn All-American honors
Simply put, Fendel has seen it all.
Fendel is the best true long distance runner out of these recruits. He'll mesh extremely well with a Colorado team that is mileage-heavy and cross country oriented. I hesitate to say that he'll have an immediate impact when you consider the amount of talent that is already on this roster. Yet, if his cross country performances have told us anything, it's that he's capable of accomplishing even the hardest tasks. Fendel is going to be a problem for future PAC 12 competitors.
Colorado may "only" have three recruits, but all three of them are absolute studs. Cleveland will add firepower in the 1500/mile distances, Scales will provide some much needed speed in the mid-distances, and Fendel will be another low-stick in the making.
The future is bright for these soon-to-be Buffaloes and with Wetmore at the helm, they have a strong chance of finishing their collegiate careers at the top of the NCAA.