Updated: Jan 13
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.
20. Ross Husch, Rs. Senior, Western Colorado
Husch is a multiple-time national qualifier in the mile and 1500 during the track season and is arguably one of the best runners in our Top 25 when it comes to range. Husch saw lots of success in 2018 during the cross country season. He’s been apart of every Western team at Nationals since he came in as a freshman and saw his strongest finish occur in 2017 when he finished 25th overall.
Last year, he finished 34th and helped the Western team to a 3rd place finish in 2018. Prior to that though, he had a strong pre-season finish of 8th place at the Joe I. Vigil Open in Alamosa. He had an impressive finish of 16th at the Lewis Crossover that saw Western Colorado take home the team title.
During the championship season, Husch put together a string of consistent finishes and was easily counted on to step up when needed. At the RMAC Championships, he finished 11th overall and then followed that up with a 15th place finish at the South Central Regional Championships. Western has a chance at taking home the team title this year and Husch is going to be a major component in that quest.
19. Luke Julian, Rs. Sophomore, Colorado Mines
Julian was just a freshman last year during the cross country season, meaning that we will likely see his name pop up a lot more in the next three years. His 2018 cross country season was relatively short in comparison to most athletes that hail from Golden, Colorado. And that would make sense given his ability to race the mile distance so well.
He debuted at the RMAC Championships where he finished 22nd and served as the number three man for the Orediggers. Two weeks later, he finished 17th at the South Central Regional Championships and was the number five man for Colorado Mines. He ended up 41st at the NCAA Championships, narrowly missing All-American status.
We saw what Julian did during the indoor and outdoor seasons as he showcased an elite ability for the mile and 1500. There’s no doubt that Julian could become a strong contender by the end of the season. He is clearly making massive leaps in his fitness and that should very easily translate to major success later this fall.
18. Luc Hagen, Rs. Junior, Colorado Mines
Another Oredigger makes the list with Luc Hagen coming in at the #18 position. Hagen had a strong 2018 cross country season and he built upon momentum to have a successful indoor season and outdoor season as well. Hagen will likely be one of the key low-stick for the Orediggers this season.
Hagen had three top 10 finishes in 2018, including a very strong bronze medal finish at the Division 2 Pre-Nationals meet held in Slippery Rock. Two weeks later, he followed that up with an 8th place finish at the RMAC Championships, serving as the lead man for Mines that day.
Despite those strong finishes, Hagen mysteriously DNF’d at the South Central Regional meet. Of course, he wasn’t needed as the Oredigger upset Adams State (who were likely conserving for Nationals), but it certainly was a curious finish for him. However, Hagen bounced back though at the national meet he finished 33rd overall and was the final scorer for Mines. Despite the All-American honor, that placing was likely not up to par for where he probably should have finished when it was all said and done.
We mentioned a few strong indoor and outdoor seasons for him earlier and those culminated in national meet appearances for the 5000 meters (indoors) and then the 10,000 meters (outdoors). Hagen should be back and ready to roll for 2019. With him comes a strong and deep Colorado Mines team that is looking to make some noise in November.
17. Ahmed Jama, Rs. Senior, Western Colorado
Jama didn’t make an appearance for the Mountaineers officially last year as the coaching staff decided to redshirt him. However, James comes into our rankings at #17 because of his previous experience. Jama, a transfer from Mercer, was 24th at the 2017 NCAA XC Championships and then finished in a strong 6th place for 10,000 meters during the 2018 outdoor season.
Yes, he missed an entire year of competition, but back in 2017, he placed 19th at the RMAC Championships. Then he placed 16th at the South Central Regional Championships. And after that, he placed 24th at Nationals. His level of consistency is spectacular and an entire year of training should only help him take the next leap and become a contender.
I believe that Jama’s level of talent is greater than an 18th place finish, but until we actually see him in action and healthy (we’ve been told that he is) there is some hesitation in moving him up higher than this.
16. Corbin Hansen, Senior, Nebraska Kearney
Hansen had his best cross country season in 2018 and it ended with an All-American finish at Nationals where he placed 31st overall. Leading up to that point, Hansen had finished 9th at the Southern Stampede, 3rd at the Rim Rock Classic, 3rd at the Fort Hays State Tiger Open, and then 4th at the MIAA Championships. Those may not be flashy, standout meets, but they certainly hold a handful of underrated talent.
Two weeks later, Hansen finished 7th at the Central Regional Championships, bettering his performance by eight spots from the year prior. His development has continued at a rapid pace and this past outdoor season is evidence of that. Just a few months ago, Hansen lowered his steeplechase time down to 9:02. He also saw personal bests in the mile (4:19), the 3000 (8:33), and the 5000 (14:39).
As long as Hansen continues on this trajectory, he should be able to improve upon his 31st place finish. He has a very good chance at sneaking inside our Top 20 at the end of the year.