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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How do you build upon one of the greatest dynasties in NCAA cross country history? This is the question that Coach Mike Smith has likely had on his mind since Tyler Day, Matthew Baxter, and Peter Lomong used up the last of their cross country eligibility in November. NAU has seen many great runners come through Flagstaff, and this trio has been pivotal to their success over the last few years. Maintaining the dynasty that first began in 2016 will require the Lumberjacks to retool via this year’s recruiting class and prepare for the future.
Consider this underrated aspect of NAU’s success: in the midst of their three-peat, they have added two studs to the lineup who were not in their top seven the year before. They added Lomong and Grijalva in 2017, and Ferro and Raff in 2018. Throughout this title run, they have always had Baxter, Day, and Beamish. The beauty of the NAU system is that - with the possible exception of Fustum Zienasellassie in 2016 - they don’t ever rely on just one runner. The Lumberjacks have often graduated top-tier low-sticks such as Zienasellassie, Trouard, Weitz, and Glines, but they have all been replaced them without much of a concern.
To keep the team in the title picture for the next few years, this year’s class needed to be one of the best in the country, and thankfully for Coach Smith and Coach Cornfield, it is. The Lumberjacks are bringing in a handful of recruits who, even if they do not contribute immediately, will give NAU depth over the next few years. Even with Beamish, Grijalva, Ferro, Raff, and Hasty returning, NAU could use some help from this year’s recruiting class if they want to lock-down yet another national title.
If anyone is ready to help the team right away, it is Drew Bosley. The standout from Wisconsin had a terrific cross country season which saw him finish 23rd at NXN and 5th at Footlocker. Bosley's major accomplishments (and consistency) on the national stage shows that he's more than capable of not only running well in the NCAA, but prospering in the large, elite fields that NAU often faces. He is someone who could provide immediate firepower for the Lumberjacks in cross country.
Bosley will also have a chance to contend for a regional spot as soon as he steps on the track. With PR's of 4:07 and 8:49, Bosley could develop into another 5k superstar for the Lumberjacks. That's scary to think about when you consider that NAU just had freshmen Theo Quax and Brodey Hasty finish up impressive spring track seasons.
Like Bosley, Corey Gorgas had an excellent fall cross country season and wrapped it up with a sparkling 9th place run at NXN. He brought that cross country fitness into indoors, running PR's in the mile and two mile (4:15 and 9:02). Like cross country, he ended indoors in a strong way by finishing runner-up in the 5k at New Balance Indoor Nationals, running a 14:40 to finish just behind Notre Dame’s Carter Cheeseman.
While Gorgas didn’t have as strong of an outdoor season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gorgas run well next year in the 5k on the track or maybe even the 10k. Either way, look for him to compete with Bosley for a top seven spot in NAU's lineup this coming cross country season. He's more than capable of doing so.
The final member of this year’s recruiting class, Caleb Easton, also qualified for NXN this past fall, but was unable to finish as highly as his future teammates. However, he bounced back in a big way, earning strong PR's of 4:12 and 8:57. Such times are better indicators of Easton's true talent than what his NXN performance (where he finished 80th overall) would suggest.
Easton, like Bosley and Gorgas, could be redshirted like Brodey Hasty was last season, but he will certainly thrive in a mileage-heavy program that perfectly fits his strengths. Forget about LeBron, Anthony Davis, and (maybe?) Kawhi. These incoming recruits are the new Big Three.
However, the recruits don't technically end there. Utah native Joe Benson brings with him some top-tier PR's after finishing up his mission trip. He committed to NAU in 2017, but this is the first year where he will step on campus as a student (with full eligibility). Should that officially count for our rankings? Truthfully, I don't know, but with a PR of 14:54, it's easy to suggest that he could be a key contributor for this team with enough time.
We finally have Abdi Nur who doesn't officially make it into our rankings because he is technically a transfer...but he still has four years of eligibility. Nur took classes at a junior college last year, but ran unattached at Bryan Clay this past spring season to preserve eligibility. After running an incredibly fast time of 14:06, Nur is likely the most elite recruit that anyone in the NCAA will have this fall.
While not an extremely deep class, each of NAU’s recruits bring more than enough quality to make up for their lack of quantity. The Lumberjacks will hope that one of these recruits will be able to come close to replicating the huge success that Day, Baxter, and Lomong had throughout their careers.
NAU will be one of the title favorites going into 2019, but their chances for a fourth consecutive title may depend on how quickly this recruiting class is ready to contribute. Luckily for us, we won’t have to wait long to find out.