Updated: Jan 13
Another summer, another edition of our Preseason XC Top 50 rankings. Our team has been constructing rankings for the past week and a half, and the debates have been plentiful. Unfortunately, we had to make our cuts at only 50 names for the D1 men and D1 women.
Still, that doesn't mean those who didn't make the Preseason Top 50 should be ignored. Let's take a look at a few of the names who just missed the cut (as well as a few honorable mentions).
Note: Keep in mind that what our writers value for the men's rankings varies from the criteria that we use to rank the women.
JUST MISS (in no particular order)
Nicholas Wareham + Jack Van Scoter (Georgetown)
I think you could make a solid argument for both Wareham and Van Scoter when it comes to our Top 50 rankings. These two are some of the best talents in the Mid-Atlantic region and have been great low-sticks at smaller meets.
Last fall, Van Scoter finished 55th at Nuttycombe before ripping off a string of strong performances such as a 14th place finish at the Penn State Open and then a 4th place finish at the BIG East Championships. He would later go on to place 6th at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships and then 64th at Nationals.
As for Wareham, the second half of his season is where he really began to pick up momentum. After finishing 65th at Nuttycombe, Wareham placed 15th at Penn State before finishing runner-up at both the BIG East Championships and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships. The rising junior then went on to place 53rd at NCAA's.
The Hoya duo have proven that they can consistently run well at a high-level against some very underrated competition. Still, the fact of the matter is that the talent they face is generally not as strong as what we would find in other parts of the country. Even so, these two could very easily find their way into our Top 50 later this fall.
Caleb Webb (Portland)
Webb has been a quietly consistent scorer for the Pilots over the past two cross country seasons. He rarely has a bad race and has shown that he can be a potential low-stick after placing 17th at Nuttycombe last fall. His past two appearances at Nationals have yielded a 54th place finish (2017) and a 68th place finish (2018), so it's clear that he can at least hold his own on the big stage.
Despite the consistency, we haven't seen any exciting results from Webb outside of that 17th place finish at Wisconsin. There is a lot of potential for the Portland Pilot this fall, but I would like to see him secure a couple top of 10 (or even top 20) finishes before we can get him a spot in our rankings.
Ian Shanklin (NC State)
It pains me to leave Shanklin out of the rankings. His consistency is extremely underrated and he proved during the ensuing track seasons that he was one of the better talents in the ACC.
Even so, Shanklin lacks the flashy finishes on his resume to put him ahead of a few others in our Top 50. His 7th place finish at ACC's is solid as well as his 54th place finish at Nationals. Still, we need to see that Shanklin can be a clear low-stick that gives NC State an edge this fall.
You may know Knevelbaard as a standout All-American miler, but his talent at the longer distances is extremely undervalued.
We didn't see Knevelbaard race last fall after he was redshirted, but his performances in 2017 are worthy of recognition. Two years ago, Knevelbaard was 6th at a very competitive Notre Dame meet and later followed that up with a 45th place finish at Nuttycombe, which was arguably more competitive than the Wisconsin meet we saw last fall.
Knevelbaard has proven that he can be a top scorer, but he faltered a bit in the 2017 postseason. He never had a bad race, but much like Caleb Webb, we need to see him perform at a high level on a consistent basis. He has likely matured quite a bit since 2017, so don't be surprised if he catapults himself into the Top 50 later this fall.
Kieran Tuntivate (Harvard)
If we were forced to choose someone for the #51 spot, it would likely be the Harvard distance standout. Tuntivate gained recognition this past indoor season after he lost a shoe in the Ivy League Championship 3k, but still ended up with the win. Despite a severe blister, Tuntivate came back that same weekend to also win the 5000 meters.
In short, this kid is tough.
Tuntivante was a two-time winner last fall after taking home titles at Roy Griak and the Ivy League Championships. Admittedly, the competition at Roy Griak was notably less impressive than what it had been in the past as most teams opted to run at Nuttycombe last fall.
Regardless, a runner-up finish at the Northeast Regional Championships and a 47th place finish at Nationals makes Kieran Tuntivate an extremely tough name to leave out of our Top 50. I imagine that he will make us regret our decision to exclude him from our preseason rankings.
Jacob Heslington (BYU)
Brigham Young loses a number of talented low-sticks from last year's cross country lineup, but they will still be able to rally around guys like Conner Mantz and Clayson Shumay this fall. However, if BYU really wants to make an impact and fight for another podium spot, they will need to add another top scorer to the equation.
Enter Jacob Heslington.
The rising senior was overlooked throughout most of the 2018 cross country season thanks to having numerous All-American teammates. Even so, Heslington held his own with an 11th place finish at the Joe Piane Invite and then a 20th place finish in the Pre-Nats White race. He ended his season with a strong 50th place finish at Nationals, just 10 spots out from giving BYU a fifth All-American.
With an 8:39 steeplechase PR, it is clear that Heslington has enough talent to be a top scorer for the Cougars this fall. He runs well when it matters the most, but he'll need to reach a new tier of fitness if he wants to crack our Top 50.
Garrett Reynolds (UCLA)
Last summer, we listed Reynolds at the #43 spot in our 2018 preseason rankings. The 29:05 10k runner had posted a handful of strong performances in 2017, such as a runner-up finish at Roy Griak (over teammate Robert Brandt) and then a pair of 14th place finishes at PAC-12's and the West Regional Championships.
His 2018 season, however, was far less exciting. Reynolds finished 25th in both the Pre-Nats White race and the PAC-12 Championships. He later placed 28th at the West Regional Championships and failed to qualify for Nationals.
Despite all of this, Reynolds has shown that he is a legitimate talent. If he can begin to replicate his 2017 performances, it is very possible that Reynolds could find himself back in our Top 50 rankings later this fall.
Miler Haller (Boise State)
Haller was one of the tougher names to leave out of our Top 50. The Boise State veteran had a masterful postseason in 2017 which eventually ended with him finishing as an All-American. His 2018 performances were respectable, but they didn't bring the same spark that we were expecting.
Haller finished 26th at the Nuttycombe Invite before placing 13th in a sneaky strong Mountain West Championship meet. Unfortunately, his performance at Nationals was severely underwhelming, falling back to 217th place overall.
Much like Reynolds, we know that Haller can be one of the top distance runners in the western portion of the country this fall. The Boise State ace will need to emulate the success he had from the 2017 postseason if he wants to crack our Top 50. Even so, he's someone that you should absolutely keep an eye on later this fall.
Christian Ricketts (Southern Utah)
Last fall was a breakout season for then-sophomore Christian Ricketts. The Southern Utah low-stick gave the Thunderbirds a strong 1-2 punch when paired with Aidan Reed after he finished 21st Nuttycombe and then 29th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race (which was arguably more competitive than the White race).
Much like Tuntivante and Shanklin, Ricketts was a name that was in and out of our rankings on multiple occasions. In retrospect, we could have found a spot for him and I don't think we would have heard many arguments. Still, his Regional and Nationals performances were far from exciting. It's also hard to gauge his 5th place finish at the BIG Sky Championships given how his only real competition was from Northern Arizona.
Despite all of this, Ricketts is a top talent who could very easily end up as an All-American come November.
David Too (Iowa State)
David Too may be the best distance runner you've never heard of. The transfer from Florida A&M arrived in Ames this past winter and became an immediate contributor. During the indoor and outdoor track seasons, Too posted times of 7:59, 13:51, and 29:07.
Since October 6th of the 2017 cross country season, Too has won six of the seven cross country races he has competed in (the one race he didn't win was the 2018 South Regional Championship meet where he placed 16th overall). Admittedly, most of those races held significantly lesser competition than what you see at Nuttycombe, Pre-Nats, or Penn State, so it's important to take those results with a grain of salt.
Regardless, Too's ability to not just win, but dominate his competition, makes him an attractive name to watch this fall now that he has refined his fitness and talent under Iowa State head coach Martin Smith. If his new personal bests are any indication, then we could see Too give the Cyclones yet another low-stick this fall.
Nadeel Wildschutt (Coastal Carolina)
The Coastal Carolina distance star is one of the more difficult names to gauge when it comes to our Top 50 rankings. Wildschutt was a hard talent to stop during the 2017 cross country season after he went undefeated in a handful of small, local meets before finishing 4th at the Southeast Regional Championships and then 28th (All-American) at NCAA's.
However, the 2018 season ended differently. After winning four straight meets, Wildschutt faltered at the Southeast Regional Championships, dropping to 52nd overall and failing to qualify for Nationals.
It's fair to suggest that he simply had a bad race, but when you face very little competition during the regular season and then struggle in your most competitive meet of the year, it's hard to find a good enough reason to place him in our Top 50.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)
Josh Park (Ohio)
The 2018 MAC Championship held his own at a competitive Penn State meet where he finished 14th overall, but he struggled at the Great Lakes Regional Championship. If he can handle the big stage, he can be one of the better runners in the country.
Anthony Williams (Notre Dame)
He was an average supporting scorer for Notre Dame throughout the 2018 season, but his 6th place finish at the ACC Championships was a huge breakout performance for the rising senior. If he can replicate that success on a consistent basis, he'll be a difficult runner to beat.
Noah Affolder (Oregon)
A 5th place finish at Beantown and a 13th place finish at ACC's highlighted Affolder's 2018 cross country season. However, the newest Oregon Duck will have to post stronger results at meets like Pre-Nats and Nationals if he wants to be considered for a Top 50 spot.
Ryan Adams (Furman)
Adams proved that he was more than just a miler last fall after finishing 10th at the Joe Piane Invite (where he faced runners from Notre Dame and BYU) and then 8th at the Southeast Regional Championships. Adams was unable to qualify for Nationals and faltered to 34th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race, but he is certainly a key talent to watch as Furman looks for a true low-stick to lean on this fall.
Farah Abdulkarim (Ole Miss)
Abdulkarim came onto the scene last year with a huge 4th place finish at Beantown and then an 8th place finish at SEC's. Yet, much like Adams, Abdulkarim didn't always run well at the larger meets such as the Pre-Nats Cardinal race (35th) and NCAA's (159th). Even so, don't be surprised if Ole Miss has another low-stick next to Waleed Suliman later this fall.
Jacob McLeod (Belmont)
One of the better freshmen in the country last year didn't come from a power five team or a powerhouse program. It took some time for McLeod to adjust to higher level of competition, but he finished 28th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race and then secured a runner-up finish at the OVC Championships behind James Sugira. He later earned an individual qualification to Nationals after he finished 4th at the South Regional Championships.
Ryan Raff + Brodey Hasty + Theo Quax (Northern Arizona)
The Northern Arizona men have a lethal top three, but their overall level of success will be based on how well their young core performs. Each of these men have shown promise in the past year. Raff finished 21st in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race last fall while Hasty was an NCAA outdoor national qualifier in the 5000 meters. Meanwhile, rising sophomore Theo Quax posted monster times of 3:39 and 13:49 in the spring (although he failed to qualify for Nationals). At least one runner in this trio has the potential to be a standout low-stick, but until then, they'll be kept in the Honorable Mentions section.
Joe Dragon (Syracuse)
Noah Affolder may be gone, but the Syracuse men can take solace in the fact that they have a veteran scorer who can consistently hold his own. Last fall, Dragon was 9th at Beantown, 9th at ACC's, and then 8th at the Northeast Regional Championships. His performance at Nationals was average (90th), but his Pre-Nats White race performance where he placed 59th overall wasn't great. If Dragon can be the same impact scorer at larger meets that he is in smaller meets, then he can find himself a spot in our Top 50 rankings in the next few months.