Updated: Jan 13
Click here to read Part One.
Want to know how we rank certain athletes? Click here to learn more. Keep in mind that this is a collective gauge of an individual's season as a whole. These are NOT preseason predictions for where we think someone will finish at Nationals.
See who our Just Missed and Honorable Mentions names are by clicking here.
TSR contributors may value certain aspects and ranking criteria differently between men and women when constructing our Indoor Top 25...
13. Cooper Teare, Junior, Oregon
As far as indoor track goes, Teare has a lot in common with Alex Ostberg. Both ran personal bests of 3:59 for the mile last winter while Teare ran 7:50 for the 3000 meters and Ostberg was less than a second behind. And at the Indoor National Championships, Teare finished 4th in the 3k and Ostberg finished 5th.
When you compare outdoor performances, Teare has the edge, specifically after running 13:32 for 5000 meters last spring (while Ostberg ran 13:42).
But what has us so convinced that Teare is a top talent is what we've seen from him as of late. Sure, he had flashes of brilliance and occasional superstar moments last year, but this past cross country season seemed to validate those suspicions. A 6th place finish at the NCAA XC Championships tell us that Teare belongs in the upper echelon of distance talent in the NCAA...and we happen to agree.
12. Kyle Mau, Senior, Indiana
What can't this guy do? Last winter, he ran a 3:57 mile, 7:50 for 3000 meters, 13:53 for 5000 meters, and anchored his DMR to a 9:27.
And the best part? That 5k mark isn't even his PR. Mau would go on to run 13:44 during outdoors at the Stanford Invite to win the 5000 meters over teammate Ben Veatch.
Mau is an absolute workhorse who can seemingly do everything well...and his coaches clearly realized that. At the 2019 Indoor National Championships, Mau was given one of the heaviest workloads of any distance runner at the meet as he attempted the DMR/mile/3k triple.
That's four races in two days when you factor in prelims.
Unfortunately, the demand for Mau's services proved to be too much as he left Birmingham with only one All-American honor (4th in the DMR). The Indiana ace has earned a few All-American honors on the track, but none are as impressive as what he did this past fall, finishing 12th at the NCAA XC Championships.
With a potentially lesser workload, we expect Mau to be a legitimate contender at NCAA's come March in whatever event(s) he ends up running.
11. Conner Mantz, Rs. Junior, BYU
We'll admit, Mantz was difficult to rank, mainly because it depends on how much you emphasize performances outside of the indoor track season.
The winter of 2019 was a solid season for Mantz, but it wasn't necessarily anything crazy. Don't get me wrong, the seasonal bests he ran were impressive (7:50 for 3000 meters, 13:39 for 5000 meters), but the end results at Nationals were generally unexciting (7th in the 3k, 10th in the 5k).
However, it was the outdoor season where we began to see Mantz refine his raw talent in a way where he could execute on the big stage. After running personal bests of 13:29 and 28:18 during the regular season, Mantz would qualify for NCAA's in both events and eventually secure a pair of All-American finishes (7th in the 5k, 4th in the 10k).
And of course, we all remember what happened just a few weeks ago.
It seems fair to say that the Conner Mantz of 2020 will likely be very different (and most likely better) than the Conner Mantz we saw in 2019. How much better he actually becomes has yet to be seen, but if you need to bet on someone running an NCAA all-time mark this season, Mantz may be your guy.
10. Edwin Kurgat, Senior, Iowa State
Kurgat is very much in the same boat as Conner Mantz. He owns tremendous times, has had decent success on the national stage during track, and boasts performances in other season which far exceed what his indoor resume says he can do. In theory, Kurgat is a top five guy, but his indoor performances aren't quite as strong as what he has done on the grass (although a 13:34 5k PR isn't too shabby).
These rankings may be all about what an athlete has done on the track, but there's something to be said for the NCAA cross country champion who easily won the national title just a few weeks ago.
9. Tyler Day, Rs. Senior, Northern Arizona
One of the forgotten stars of the NCAA is set to return in the very near future and when he does, he'll likely put his name in the national title conversation yet again.
If you ever need to bet on someone being an All-American, you can usually assume that your money is safe with Tyler Day. The NAU veteran has established himself as a long distance juggernaut in the NCAA, earning All-American honors three of the four times that he has qualified for the national meet on the track.
On the outdoor oval, Day has posted some outstanding times such as 13:25 for 5000 meters (run last spring) and 28:04 for 10,000 meters (which was run in 2018). When you factor in conversions (altitude and flat-track), he has similar caliber times from indoors as well.
It's admittedly not easy to track Day's success during the winter months. Between redshirts, conversions, and securing personal bests over different seasons, it's hard to keep track of what he did and when he did it.
Last year, he ran a converted 13:31 which held as the top time in the NCAA entering the National Championships. In 2018, Day was redshirted, but dropped a (roughly converted) 3:56 mile at the Mountain T's Invitational, finishing 2nd to Kasey Knevelbaard (who ran a converted 3:55).
On paper, Day is a guy who could theoretically challenge anyone in the NCAA right now in the 3k and 5k distances. However, his finishing speed relative to other top talents is suspect at best, which has made him a difficult pick in tactical championship races which rarely finish anywhere close to the all-out efforts that Day is used to.
Even so, his combination of veteran experience, consistency, and top marks makes him an easy pick to be inside our Top 10.
8. Carlos Villarreal, Senior, Arizona
When we look at Villarreal, we see a guy with superstar qualities and superstar credentials. The Arizona senior is one of the better milers in the collegiate circuit, and he has proven that with his 3:57 (mile) and 3:37 (1500) personal bests.
But Villarreal has done more than become just a great miler. He has become one of the most dangerous distance runners in the NCAA when it comes to range. Last winter, he ran 7:52 for 3000 meters before transitioning to outdoor track, eventually running 1:46 (800) and 14:07 (5k). No one, not even Oliver Hoare and Kyle Mau, can boast that level of speed and endurance.
Add in a lethal kick and the willingness to be (slightly) more aggressive at the front of races compared to years past, and you have the prototype of your ideal distance runner.
However, when it comes to postseason performances, that's where things get a little tricky to gauge for this highly accomplished Wildcat.
Villarreal finished 4th at the indoor national meet last year, but wasn't even in qualifying position until the Last Chance College Elite meet at Washington. When you look at the rest of his postseason endeavors, they aren't totally ideal. He wasn't able to advance to the final at NCAA's last spring and didn't even qualify for the national meet the year before that. Villarreal qualified for the indoor national meet back in 2018, but much like the spring of 2019, was unable to get out of the prelims.
In the grand scheme of things, it would be unfair to look too closely at those results. After all, we're talking about a guy who finished 4th at the National Championships less than a year ago. If anything, those postseason fallacies should be viewed as learning moments rather than negative trends.
Villarreal is good enough to contend for a national title this season. If he's able to navigate through the national meet without any issues, then he'll become a favorite to win it all.
7. Geordie Beamish, Senior, Northern Arizona
We have finally arrived at the altitude critics worst nightmare: Geordie Beamish.
Coming into the 2019 Indoor National Championships, Beamish was ranked at #10 on the TFRRS descending order list for the mile with a time of 3:57.99...well, sorta.
Beamish's original mark was a 4:06.96 from the Mountain T's Invitational, but after both altitude and flat-track conversions, the NAU Kiwi was given a time that easily gave him a bid to Nationals despite critics doubting the validity of the time.
That, of course, didn't matter in the end as Beamish went on to pull off one of the biggest upsets of the weekend, taking down Oliver Hoare in a blistering last 200 meters to win the national title.
Beamish would later go on to further legitimize his conversions with a 1500 meter time of 3:39 during the spring season, although he would ultimately choose to run the 5k at the outdoor national meet (where he placed 10th).
Truthfully, there isn't much wrong with Beamish or his credentials. He's run fast and has won a national title. What more do you need?
But when you compare his results and times to a few others, it's hard to say that he should be ranked any better. His range is strong, but not exciting. His times are fast, but not elite. He won a national title, but doesn't have an All-American honor on the track outside of that. When it comes to rankings, especially as we get inside our Top 10, those things begin to matter just a little bit more.
Even so, Beamish has proven that he belongs with the other men that we have listed in Part Two of our Preseason Top 25.
6. Yared Nuguse, Junior, Notre Dame
Nuguse first burst onto the collegiate scene during the winter of 2018, anchoring home Notre Dame's DMR for a stunning 2nd place finish behind Virginia Tech. Respectable outdoor and cross country seasons followed suit, but the real question entering last winter was whether or not Nuguse could be the elite miler that the Fighting Irish needed him to be.
For a while, it looked like Nuguse was going to have a relatively quiet winter, running "only" 4:01 and 7:57 during the regular season. However, as soon as the postseason came around, Nuguse flipped the switch. He solo'd a 3:57 at the ACC Championships (comfortably winning the mile title), but opted to go all-in for the DMR at NCAA's.
The end result was a 3:55 split on the anchor leg, out-kicking a hard-charging Grant Fisher, and winning the national title.
Nuguse would eventually get his individual glory during the outdoor track season, running a personal best of 3:38 in the 1500 at Bryan Clay and then barely edging out Justine Kiprotich for the national title at Nationals.
There's a mystical idea that some successful athletes have the "it" factor. While I'm not sure what "it" is, it seems fair to say that Nuguse has it embedded in his DNA. He's a clear winner with wicked fast times and despite the absence of range outside of the mile, it's hard to discount what he has done over the past two track seasons.
5. Amon Kemboi, Senior, Campbell
If you're someone who believes that postseason finishes should be the main driver behind our rankings, then you may not like our TSR #5 spot. Despite qualifying for Indoor Nationals in both the 3k and 5k last year, Kemboi could only muster one All-American finish (6th in the 5k). He later went on to redshirt the spring track season.
Now that we that settled, let's take a look at his times.
In the winter of 2019, Kemboi posted times of 3:59 (mile), 7:44 (3k), and 13:33 (5k). That 7:44 was run at the Millrose Games where most of the attention was given to Grant Fisher and Morgan McDonald who finished 1-2 in that race. Kemboi's 7:44 currently ranks NCAA #9 all-time.
When you have marks like that, sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and accept the postseason results. Kemboi may have the most raw talent out of anyone in the NCAA...now he just has to mold it around a national title performance.
4. Marco Arop, Junior, Mississippi State*
3. Devin Dixon, Senior, Texas A&M
*TSR has recently been informed that Marco Arop will be turning pro and will no longer compete at the NCAA level. He will be removed from our rankings in our next update.
This was actually a tougher decision than some would think it is in regards to who should come out as the top-ranked 800 meter runner. Here was our thought process...
- Dixon ran an altitude converted 1:44.97 last indoor season (NCAA #1). Arop ran a standard 1:45.90 (NCAA #2) in that same season.
- Arop finished 2nd at Indoor Nationals last year. Dixon finished 4th in that same race.
- Dixon would go on to run 1:44.84 at Outdoor Nationals. Arop would run a personal best of 1:44.25 at the Pan American Games, two months following the conclusion of NCAA's.
- Dixon finished runner-up at Outdoor Nationals. Arop did not qualify.
- Arop beat Bryce Hoppel at the Pan American Games to win gold. Dixon never beat Hoppel.
In the end, it's all about what you value more. Should Arop get more credit for having the better finish at Indoor Nationals? Or should Dixon get more credit for having the faster indoor time? Should Dixon get more credit for finishing 2nd at Outdoor Nationals? Or should Arop get more credit for beating Hoppel, winning the Pan American Games, and having the faster time, albeit outside of collegiate competition?
We decided to go with Dixon, but we could have easily argued in favor of Arop.
Long story, short - these two have the potential to put their SEC rivalry on full display on the national stage this winter.
2. Joe Klecker, Rs. Senior, Colorado
Want postseason experience and consistency? Klecker has toed the line for four races in three national meets on the track and has finished as an All-American in every single one of those races.
Want range? Klecker was ranked inside the top five of the NCAA in both the 3k and 5k last year while also being ranked at #14 in the mile.
Want fast times? Last winter, Klecker ran 3:58 (mile), 13:35 (5k), and a converted 7:48 (3k).
Outside of a national title, this redshirt senior has everything you need in a top-ranked distance runner. Is 2020 finally the year that Klecker earns that coveted national title? All signs point to yes...
1. Oliver Hoare, Senior, Wisconsin
When finishing 3rd at the NCAA Championships is considered an off day, you know you're doing something right.
Wisconsin's Oliver Hoare was the favorite to win the mile national title last winter and rightfully so. The Aussie Badger had upset Josh Kerr for the 1500 meter gold in the spring of 2018 which then left Hoare inheriting the reputation of a national title favorite. After running a 3:54 mile at the Millrose Games, that thought process seemed entirely rationale.
More so, Hoare had run 7:48 for 3000 meters at the Indiana University Relays, beating out Kyle Mau on his home track and sending a message to the rest of the NCAA that he was the man to beat.
But ironically, both Hoare and Mau would fall victim to a lack of "load management" (shoutout to Kawhi Leonard), as the duo attempted the brutal DMR/mile/3k triple at Nationals. As a result, Hoare dropped to last in the 3000 meters, 3rd in the mile (after being out-kicked by Beamish and Comber), and 7th in the Distance Medley Relay.
Say what you will, but running 3:54 and 7:48 in the same season is wildly impressive. We've already seen that Hoare can win a title over the NCAA's greatest miler ever (Kerr), and last season would have likely earned him at least one more national title if he had been able to go all-in on one event (or at least attempted a double and not a triple).
Hoare checks off all of the major boxes for us. For that reason, he is TSR's 2019 Indoor Preseason #1 runner.