Updated: Jan 13
Written by Michael Weidenbruch (40-38), Sean Collins (37-36), and Sam Ivanecky (35-31)
Note: Keep in mind that what our writers value for the women's rankings varies from the criteria that we use to rank the men.
40. Rachel McArthur, Junior, Colorado
Rachel McArthur’s transfer from Villanova to Colorado has been one of the biggest headlines of the summer so far. The Buffs are the reigning NCAA cross country champions, and the addition of Rachel McArthur will be crucial for their title defense.
Last fall while at Villanova, McArthur finished runner-up at the BIG East Championships, won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on a miserably rainy day at Penn State, and then quietly finished 119th at NCAA's. McArthur’s 119th place finish clearly does not reflect her ability based on her prior postseason races, and her transition into the Colorado program will hopefully set her up to run strong all season.
Rachel McArthur has run 2:04 for 800 meters, 4:14 for 1500 meters, and 9:19 for 3000 on the track. She also has an impressive 4:37 mile PR from indoors. These times put her in good company with some of the top talents around the country, as well as within her own team at Colorado.
The team and individual titles going to Colorado last fall make for high expectations going into this season, and Rachel McArthur will be an important part of their lineup this fall as Mark Wetmore’s squad will be looking to repeat as champions.
39. Kelsey Chmiel, Freshman, NC State
Kelsey Chmiel may very well be the top recruit coming out of high school this year. The Saratoga Springs (NY) graduate has already run times that are competitive in the NCAA such as 4:23 for 1500 meters, 9:18 for 3000 meters, and 16:18 for 5000 meters. All of the times are no joke, even at the highest level of collegiate competition.
Chmiel finished 2nd at Nike Cross Nationals last fall behind only Katelyn Tuohy who has been making a name for herself as one of the best high school runners ever. Chmiel has put herself in good company in the past, and should be able to do the same in the NCAA right off the bat.
The NC State women finished 13th at NCAA's last fall and will be returning many key athletes going into this season. Landing the top recruit in the nation shows that NC State is doing something right. Hopefully Kelsey Chmiel has a smooth transition into the program, as she could be a key scoring member of their team and an All-American based on her current resume. This is a program with a tradition of success, and Chmiel should fit right in with her champion mindset coming out of high school.
38. Christina Aragon, Senior, Stanford
Christina Aragon is part of a Stanford program that does not settle for second. The Cardinal are consistently pushing for individual and team wins in both track and cross country, and this pattern is not frequently broken.
In 2017, Aragon finished 67th at the NCAA Cross Country Championship to help Stanford finish 4th overall. Prior to that, Aragon finished 24th at the West Regional Championships and 19th at PAC-12's in her only other races of the season.
But in 2016? The story is a bit different. Nearly three years ago, Aragon was clearly a top talent, placing 14th at the PAC-12 Championships and then 38th at Nationals for an All-American finish. While she may not always be the most consistent, it's apparent that she can at least contend with the best runners in the NCAA.
Aragon ran track in 2018, and then a season opener race in cross country last year, but has not raced since. This leaves some questions as to what her health situation is. However, if she is healthy and comes into the season fresh, she should be able to perform extremely well.
Personal bests of 2:05 for 800 meters, 4:09 for 1500 meters, and 9:01 for 3000 meters should set up Aragon up to finish in a solid All-American spot later this fall. The Stanford women will be shooting for a team title as always, and Aragon will play an integral role in that quest.
37. Winny Koech, Senior, UTEP
Koech has been one of the major distance stars for the UTEP women over the past few seasons, especially as the men’s team has been gaining more of the headlines with their elite 800 runners. Koech and teammate Linda Cheruiyot can make this team really stand out in the Conference USA, but they will need to standout individually in a loaded Mountain region.
Koech’s outdoor season should prepare her well for the upcoming cross country season. She placed 8th in the Mt. Sac Relays over 10,000 meters earning herself a PR of 33:35 in the process. Sadly for her, that level of success wasn’t replicable at the West regional meet, but looking over the full range of her performance, Koech could have certainly made Nationals on a different day. Koech was also the 5000 meter and 10,000 meter Conference USA Champion this past spring.
More importantly for these rankings, Koech has found success across the full cross country season. In 2018, Koech had not finished worse than 2nd in a race before regionals, including victories at the UNM Lobo Invite, Lori Fitzgerald Invite, and Santa Clara University Bronco Invite. She also grabbed a pair of 2nd place finishes at Joe Piane (in the less competitive section) as well as the Conference USA Championships.
Heading into NCAA postseason, Koech had to fight a larger battle since the competition at her in-season meets was lacking compared to a typical Power Fivee school’s schedule. Here, she rose to the challenge, placing 13th at the Mountain Region Championships beating harriers like Val Constein and Cierra Simmons. This earned her an individual trip to NCAA's where she placed 73rd overall. Even though 73rd is not an All-American caliber performance, Koeech battled to a very competitive placing and showed she has the strength to compete at a high level next season.
Thought was it? Far from it.
It’s important to recognize that Koech also has a 19th place finish from 2017 XC National Championships, as well as and a 92nd place finish in 2016. That level of consistency, although slightly variable, indicates a constant level of success and a high likelihood of her returning to good form in 2019.
Heading into this season, Koech’s scheduling could be her blessing or her curse: will she race enough high-level early competition to prepare for NCAA's? Or will she be in lesser races and continue to earn wins for herself and UTEP?
36. Isabelle Brauer, Rs. Senior, Oregon
Isabella Brauer is entering a final cross country season for the Oregon Ducks, but has been with Coach Helen Lehman-Winters for all four years, transferring with her from San Francisco after the Powell’s left the Ducks for Seattle. Normally, transfers wouldn't have much of an impact on one's ranking, but with Brauer, her move is significant based on the history and circumstances.
Two year ago, Brauer finished 15th place at the 2017 National Championships as San Francisco put forth a valiant effort to win the NCAA team title. During that season, Brauer placed 7th at the West Regional Championships and 11th at the Nuttycombe Invite. Both of those results show that her 15th place finish at NCAA's was not a fluke performance.
The 2018 season was not quite as successful for Brauer after making the transition to Eugene. She was 5th at the Bill Dellinger meet that saw Oregon sweep the first seven spots, yet Brauer led a pack of three, almost 40 seconds behind the lead pack of Ejore, Hul, Cardama Baez, and Pyzik. Brauer then went on to finish 22nd at Pre-Nationals and then a 12th at the PAC-12 Championships. Neither race seems truly indicative of her 2017 performances, but it showed that she could still be competitive despite the drastic change in scenery.
Brauer closed out her 2018 season with a 20th place finish at the West Regional Championships and a 52nd place finish at the NCAA meet. That 52nd place finish helped the Oregon Ducks to 3rd place podium spot.
With a number of top scorers now gone from the team, all eyes will be on Brauer to step up as the lead low-stick for the Ducks later this fall. Hopefully that incentive will be enough for her to return to her 2017 fitness.
35. Samantha Drop, Junior Georgia
Drop may be one of the biggest wild cards coming into the 2019 cross country season. The Georgia junior is a 2017 All-American who has only raced twice since her outdoor track season in 2018 and of those two races, she only finished one. That race was the SEC Indoor 5000 meters where she picked up an 8th place finish, running 16:57, a time almost 30 seconds slower than her personal best.
Ranking Drop at #32 comes as a slight risk with her extended absence, but it is important to remember where she was at before taking a break.
In 2016, Drop narrowly missed qualifying for NCAA's when she finished 17th at the South regional meet. She then came back in 2017 and got even better. She only finished outside the top 10 twice, once at Pre-Nationals where she was 13th and then another time at NCAA's where she was 30th and an All-American. Her showing at Pre Nationals is more impressive when you remember that prior to 2018, the meet was not split into two races and typically featured a deeper field than the most recent format.
Drop performed well on the track in 2017 and 2018. While she did not make NCAA's as a true freshman, Drop did win the USATF Junior National title in the 10,000 meters two year ago. The next year she qualified for NCAA's in the same event, placing 21st to earn an All-American honorable mention.
Based on her first two seasons in the NCAA, Drop has shown tremendous talent and ability that leads to the belief that she could do very well later this fall. The biggest question with her is what will she be like after such an extended absence? With only one race under her belt during the 2018-19 academic year, she could be a bit rusty this fall.
There will also be added pressure for her and her twin sister, Jessica Drop, to help lead Georgia back to the NCAA meet in a wide-open South region. There will be plenty of excitement surrounding her return and we will have to wait until then to determine where her true ranking will end up.
34. Clare O’Brien, Senior, Boise State
Based on cross country accolades alone, it seems that O’Brien would be farther up in the rankings. Despite blowing up at the NCAA meet and finishing 161st, the then-Boise State junior had a phenomenal 2018 on the grass.
In meets leading up to the National Championship, O’Brien never finished worse than 10th in any race despite facing loaded fields at Nuttycombe (10th) and the Mountain Regional Championship (6th). In fact, at the Mountain regional meet, O’Brien finished ahead of five women who earned All-American status at NCAA's in 2018. Realistically, O’Brien would have finished in the top 25 on any other day and will surely come into 2019 with that chip on her shoulder.
The biggest thing holding O’Brien back in the rankings this season are her 2019 track seasons. Despite being an All-American caliber runner, she was less than impressive on the track, failing to make either national meet. Her indoor campaign got off to a strong start when she opened at UW with a 9:11 for 3000 meters, but after that race she only raced twice and neither time was remotely close to her personal best.
Outdoors followed a similar story line. She opened up at Stanford and just missed her 5000 meter personal best of 15:42 by six seconds, but then never came close to running her PR's in any event. Although she qualified for regionals in both the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters, she once again failed to move on in either. Her performance in the 10k came agonizingly close, missing out on NCAA's by only three places (20 seconds). The attempt to rally for the 5000 did not go well, seeing O’Brien fade early on to a 35th place showing.
Despite two track seasons that were anything but ideal, O’Brien deserves recognition for her capabilities on the grass. Her performances from 2018 displayed incredible talent and if things go according to plan, she should move up in the rankings before the season is over.
33. Winny Koskei, Junior, Wichita State
Wichita State may not be known for their distance running teams, but Koskei is making a name for the school and herself. Last fall, Koskei became the first runner from the school to earn All-American status in cross country since 2012 by placing 35th overall at NCAA's. This season, she will be gunning to improve on that performance and show that her fall season was no fluke.
Koskei falls into the same category as O’Brien when it comes to ranking status. She is excellent during cross country, but sub-par performances on the track kept her from moving up higher. During 2018, Koskei was lights out on grass. She only finished outside the top 10 twice (11th at Pre Nationals and 35th at Nationals) and was otherwise in the top three of each race.
Track was a different story, however.
Koskei historically has not been as strong on the track, but did manage to run personal bests in the mile, 1500, 3000, and 5000 in 2019. Despite the improvement, her times don’t stand up very well against some of the stronger women in the nation which kept her from moving up in the rankings. Despite qualifying for both the 5000 meter and 10,000 meter races at the regional meet, Koskei did not finish higher than 20th at the meet.
The big question going into 2019 will be how much her track performances really matter. Her 2017 seasons on the track were very similar to this year, yet she had a great cross country season. Going into this fall, don’t expect Koskei to make any waves early on, but count on her showing up when the meets begin to matter.
32. Camille Davre, Rs. Sophomore, Michigan
Going into NCAA's, there was likely no one predicting that Davre would be the top Michigan finisher. Sure, she had strong showings during the regular season, and looked like a possible All-American, but teammates Avery Evenson and Anne Forsyth were coming off of strong showings of their own.
That said, Davre was the first Wolverine to cross the line in 29th, and ended up leading Michigan to a 4th place showing where they upset the likes of BYU and Boise State. As only a redshirt freshman, Davre exhibited bits of inexperience at times, but overall looked consistent throughout the season. Outside of her 37th place finish at Pre-Nationals, the redshirt freshman was consistently in the top 20 at meets and she steadily improved as the season wore on.
While her cross country season was fantastic, her credentials on the track are not as dazzling. However, that’s not to say she had a bad season - in fact it's quite the opposite.
Davre set personal bests in every event from the 800 meters to 5000 meters and qualified for her first NCAA regional meet in the 5k. The only reason she failed to move up any higher in our rankings was that she simply hasn’t run fast enough yet. Her personal best in the 5000 meters is 16:21 which is solid, but not elite at the collegiate level. She only finished 24th at the regional meet and her best indoor showing was a 9th place run at BIG 10's in the 3k.
As only a redshirt sophomore, Davre will have plenty of room to grow this cross country season. Her track times may not be that of some of her competitors, but her consistency in 2018 showed us that her performances were no fluke. Given she should still have plenty of room to improve, Davre could be aiming for a top 20 finish at NCAA's on the right day this year.
31. Lilli Burdon, Senior, Washington
At this point in her career, it’s hard to be overly surprised by Burdon’s ability on the cross country course. In 2017, while at Oregon, she was an All-American and had big expectations coming into 2018 cross country after she finished 3rd in the 5000 meter at Outdoor Nationals.
When she and teammate Katie Rainsberger opted to follow their coaches and transfer to Washington, there was some skepticism on how well Burdon would do in a new environment. While Rainsberger made her debut at Washington’s first race, it took until PAC-12's for Burdon to finally compete as a Husky (presumably due to injury). Once she was there, she finished an underwhelming 31st place and had many doubting taht she would have any impact come NCAA's.
That season, Burdon was consistent in an unusual way, finishing every race between 31st and 33rd place. After PAC-12's, she came back to finish 33rd at the West Regional Championships, a slightly more impressive performance given that the meet is deeper. Then two weeks later, she finished 33rd again - this time at NCAA's - earning her first All-American honors at Washington. It was an incredible comeback performance and showed that even while Burdon started slow, she is not one to doubt in cross country.
Like many others in this tier, the concern around Burdon is not her ability in cross country, but her performances during the track season. She opted to redshirt the outdoor season in 2019, presumably saving it for her final year at Washington. During indoors her performances were good, but not great. She did, however, run 9:03 for 3000 meters at the MPSF Championships which put her at #17 in the NCAA for the event. Regardless, she opted to compete in the DMR at Indoor Nationals where Washington finished 7th overall.
Although Burdon did not run outdoors, her indoor season was good enough that given her background and a year to adapt at Washington, she has a lot of potential this fall. While it would be easy to write her off knowing that she barely raced between 2018 and 2019, there is a good chance that she can help give the Huskies a boost at NCAA's with a potential top-30 performance this season.