Updated: Apr 8
Recruit rankings data has been manually collected by TSR contributors from multiple, reliable sources. Transfers and foreign recruits who are not expected to have four years of eligibility are excluded from these rankings. Order of rankings was decided by all TSR contributors. Despite our research, it is possible that certain names have been erroneously omitted.
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When Cal Baptist decided to move from competing in Division Two to Division One, it felt slightly odd at first. After two top-five finishes during the cross country season, it looked as if the Lancers were ready to make a name for themselves within the ranks of Division Two and become a powerhouse while doing so.
But now it is year two of their move, and although they are still ineligible for the postseason, that hasn’t stopped coaches Adam Tribble, Adam Cooke, and Abby Stanley from convincing athletes to come to Riverside, California.
The Lancers are losing five athletes from their 2018 roster and they have reloaded with talent headed into the 2019 season. When they’re eligible to compete at the NCAA Championships, they might just take the scene by storm the same way they did in the Division Two ranks.
The men’s side brought in 12 new recruits for the 2019 season, although only eight are eligible to be considered for our rankings. Already a rich school with international athletes, nine of the 12 are coming from overseas to help build a lasting tradition in the Western Athletic Conference.
Giedrius Valincius is the first athlete who has committed to the Lancers for 2019. The Kalvarija, Lithuania product has some solid times for someone who will be considered as an incoming freshman. He’s run 3:56 for 1500 meters which can be improved upon within the first year of competition. However, his time of 9:06 in the steeple should be what grabs the attention of spectators. Within a few years, there’s a real possibility that we could see him battling for a spot to Nationals (and even qualifying) in the steeplechase.
Rikus van Niekerk comes from Pretoria, South Africa. Although the Republic of South Africa isn't known much for their distance running, van Niekerk hopes to change that narrative while competing for Cal Baptist. Niekerk has personal bests of 8:29 in the 3000 meters and 14:50 at 5000 meters. Not only will he be someone who can battle for a top spot on this team, but the current transition period gives Niekerk the ability to tap into his potential and become a solid scoring option for the Lancers in the future. To make things even more exciting, Niekerk already has championship racing experience as he just recently took home the U20 South African national title for 5000 meters.
Arturs Medveds comes from Latvia and he comes in with very strong range. Medveds has run 9:31 for the steeplechase, but has posted a time of 31:19 for 10k. Yes, those are times that will need to be refined if he wants to contribute at the elite level, but with enough development, he could absolutely be a key scorer and impact runner. Medveds represented Latvia at the European U20 Cross Country Championships and will follow that up with a European U23 Championship appearance later this summer.
Aris Valerio of Murrieta Mesa High School comes in as an 800 meter specialist who has run 1:53 in his career. On a team that seems to be building for country country, it is nice to see Cal Baptist incorporate some speed into their program. Valerio may be one of the more underrated additions of this recruiting class.
The Lancers are also bringing in two recruits who are signed to begin classes after cross country has ended. Both Timothy Legemet (Kenya) and Zlatko Kozuhar (Croatia) will have full cross country eligibility starting in 2020. Legemet brings a lethal 1500/5k combo of 3:50 and 14:30 to Cal Baptist while Kozhuar is at a similar level for the 5k/10k distances (14:43/30:35). It will be awhile before we see these two in action, but it is scary to think about what their future value for this team could be.
Henrique Neves is the last athlete coming from overseas who technically still qualifies for our rankings. The Portugal native comes in with a personal best of 8:38 over 3000 meters, a time that could win a high school state title in a handful of states around the country. Neves may not currently be needed to help make an immediate impact, but in just a few years he could be one of the reasons why the Lancers are changing the landscape in California.
The Lancers also picked up a key California native in Cameron Hylton who is from Great Oaks High School in Temecula, California. The incoming freshman currently holds personal bests of 9:23 in the 3200 and 14:38 for three miles. Hylton was also a 2018 Nike Cross Nationals qualifier where he finished inside the top 60. He'll bring some underrated experience to Cal Baptist this fall.
We finished up our eight eligible recruits, but the following four athletes are the ones who technically didn't qualify for our Top 10 due to their lack full eligibility or because they were considered transfers. Of course, Cal Baptist has such a deep class that we still put them at #3 in our rankings anyways...
The first of those athletes is Ivo Balabanov from Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. The incoming distance ace already boasts impressive times with marks of 3:45 for 1500 meters and 8:01 for 3000 meters. However, Balabanov may find the most success at the longer distances as he has already run 8:51 for the 3000 steeplechase and 14:07 for 5000 meters. The Bulgaria native is arguably one of the best recruits that the 2019 class has to offer and he should make an immediate impact on this program.
Michael Conant comes from Woodcrest Christian out of Moreno Valley and looks to be the second 800 meter prospect of this group, making this recruiting classes one of the deepest in the country. Conant has run 1:53 over 800 meters and 3:54 for 1500 meters. He’ll likely slot into the same kind of racing that we'll see from Aris Valerio.
Florian Le Pallec was the 2018 U20 French runner-up at 5000 meters in 2018 and comes in with a personal best of 14:23. He also fits the bill of an athlete that can be developed and become a strong component within the Lancers' program. Believe it or not, he has full eligibility, but since he is technically considered a university transfer, he does not count towards our rankings.
Manuel Peris Bruno is the final international talent that comes over with championship racing experience. Bruno represented Spain at the U20 Cross Country Championships in late 2018 and currently holds a personal best of 14:37 in the 5000. He is yet another athlete that will likely develop in a strong scorer for the Lancers in just a few years.
Did you make it this far? There is so much talent to mention that it almost becomes exhausting to even read and comprehend.
It goes without saying that the coaching staff at CBU sought out runners with strong international experience for a reason. When the time comes for CBU's postseason eligibility to begin, they should be in the immediate conversation of contenders.