2019 Men's XC Top 25 Teams: Update #2

Updated: Jan 13


KEY

(Unranked)

Was not ranked the week before.

(#/#)

First number indicates how much the team has moved in the rankings.

The second number indicates where that team was ranked the week before.

25. Florida State Seminoles (Unranked)

The Florida State women had a great breakout race at Notre Dame, but we shouldn't overlook the 10th place finish that we saw from their men's squad. Knevelbaard was the true low-stick that we thought he could be with his 19th place finish while sophomore Paul Stafford was a nice surprise at the #2 spot in 41st place.


With guys like Cross and Pottorff supporting the middle portion of their lineup with a pair of top 70 finishes, it became clear that the Seminoles had a relatively strong squad. Lipscomb transfer Silas Griffith quickly closed out the scoring with a 77th place finish.


The additions of Griffith and Knevelbaard have been monumental for this team in 2019. They now have legitimate scoring potency and a reliable backend that can get them through nationally competitive meets. They aren't perfect, and a 10th place finish isn't necessarily incredible, but they did well in a deep field of strong teams this past weekend.


24. Wyoming Cowboys (-11 / 13)

It was not a great Friday for the Cowboys. Roberts, Ewing, and Henry finished 25-31-40 which is a respectable top three, but each of those men could have cut down on their scoring. Still, the real issues were on the backend of their lineup with their bottom two scorers placing 81st and 113th overall. As a result, the Wyoming men finished 13th in the team standings.


I'm not ready to give up on this team yet. They have a formidable top three and have a lot of room to improve. Still, this was not a great performance and it leaves me nervous about what they'll be able to do come November.


23. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (Unranked)

No Sugira, no problem. We have not yet seen star low-stick James Sugira this season, but freshman Ezekiel Kibichii seems to be his newest replacement after finishing 9th at Notre Dame. There was a relatively large gap after Kibichii with freshman Enock Kipchumba and sophomore Remi Schyns placing 44th and 48th respectively, but their backend was good enough to give the team a 9th place finish (Dworczak finished 71st while Abascal finished 82nd).


The Colonels clearly reloaded with a handful of new recruits who can offer the same scoring consistency that we saw from last year's veterans. This team is super young and it looks like they will be a major problem in the future as they gain experience, especially if Sugira returns.


22. Alabama Crimson Tide (-1 / 21)

The Alabama men had a killer 1-2 punch with Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen taking the top two spots at Notre Dame. The problem? Their final three scorers placed 134-158-162 (overall) giving the Crimson Tide a 16th place finish in the team standings.


Usually, this would result in an immediate boot from our rankings. However, we have not yet seen Noel Rotich or Eliud Kipsang enter their lineup. Their potential return keeps this team relevant, but even if they do run in 2019, their #5 position is clearly going to be an issue.


If we don't see Rotich and Kipsang in Alabama's next race, the Crimson Tide will likely drop out of our Top 25.


21. Boise State Broncos (Unranked)

Really nice run for Boise State at the Bill Dellinger Invite. They entered our Preseason Rankings at #25, but briefly dropped out while other teams competed in a handful of early-season races.


The Broncos finished 4th overall two weeks ago with Ahmed Muhummed leading the team with his 10th place finish. He was followed by veterans Miler Haller and Elijah Armstrong who placed 19th and 21st, respectively.


We knew this group had a reliable top three, but their backend was a bit of a question mark. Logan Rees finished 28th in the team scoring while Jonathan Shields closed out their top five by placing 42nd in the team standings.


Their depth isn't bad, but it's not going to make them competitive with the best teams in the country. Boise State will still be good this year, but their bottom two scorers will dictate how well they do for the rest of the season.


20. Princeton Tigers (0 / 20)

The Princeton men seem to be employing last year's strategy of laying low until the postseason. They tempoed the Paul Short Open race, easily taking home the win by taking spots 4th through 9th.


19. Oklahoma State Cowboys (-12 / 7)

It's hard not to be concerned about Oklahoma State's depth this year. They finished 3rd at the Chile Pepper Festival, albeit without a handful of top runners. Neither Isai Rodriguez nor Ryan Smeeton (who just finished competing at the World Championships) toed the line this past weekend, but the guys who did compete didn't exactly standout.


Ashenafi Hatte was the top (attached) collegiate in the race, but his teammates dropped to 24th, 25th, 31st, and 59th. Star freshman Alex Maier ran unattached, but his 57th place finish didn't evoke much confidence.


Their drop in the rankings may seem a little harsh, but we still need to see their top runners toe the line and we need to see their depth offer some scoring stability. Until that happens, they'll stick to the #19 spot in our rankings.


18. Syracuse Orange (-2 / 16)

They haven't raced since Beantown, but their drop in the rankings is simply due to the performances that we've seen from other teams.


17. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (0 / 17)

The MTSU men took care of business at the Louisville Classic. Choge and Chemadi finished 2nd and 3rd while the rest of their lineup placed 15th (Rono), 30th (Mosito) and 31st (Kimaiyo). Despite the convincing win, the Blue Raiders seemed to show some vulnerability with the gaps among their bottom three scorers. There's no need to hit the panic button with them yet, but it shows us that their firepower may only take them so far.


16. Wisconsin Badgers (-2 / 14)

15. Michigan Wolverines (0 / 15)

14. Indiana Hoosiers (-2 / 12)

It was a battle of the BIG 10 rivals this past Friday at Notre Dame as these three teams finished 6th (Indiana), 7th (Michigan), and 8th (Wisconsin) in the team standings. When you look at the finishes among their top five, these teams ran exactly like we thought they would.


Indiana rallied behind their two lethal low-sticks (Mau finished 4th, Veatch finished 11th) and were supported by Arjun Jha in 39th place. However, their bottom two scorers are what ultimately held them back from earning a better finish (Millar was 67th, Horter was 74th). Those aren't necessarily bad performances, they just weren't great either.


Meanwhile, Michigan ended the day by displaying their patented team depth. They finished the day with overall finishes of 21-34-50-52-56-57-69 (Myrer and Aho led the way). Firepower and front-running is still a wish-list item for this team, but their depth is so darn impressive. They had a 28 second time spread between their top five scorers and an 11 second time spread between their final five runners.


Finally, we have Wisconsin. Overall, it was a solid day for the Badgers, but I imagine that they were looking for more. Oliver Hoare got the job done with a 5th place finish while Hacker and Eidenschink placed 30th and 42nd, respectively. However, the gaps that we saw from their bottom two scorers weren't ideal. Freshman Jackson Sharp finished 73rd while Shuaib Aljabaly finished 94th. I actually think this team will be better in a smaller field at the BIG 10 Championships, but the youth and inexperience in the second half of their lineup may be something to keep an eye on. Nonetheless, this was still a respectable race for the Badgers.


13. UCLA Bruins (+6 / 19)

They finished 3rd at the Bill Dellinger Invite and although they didn't necessarily take down any dominant teams, they showed a lot of impressive scoring potency. The Bruins were only two points back from a BYU team that didn't have Clayson Shumway and they also had the best top three in the field between Robert Brandt, Garrett Reynolds, and Colin Burke. Chris Morzenti kept things together at the 17th spot, but Gleason's 34th place finish (overall) held back the UCLA men from upsetting BYU.


Still, there is a lot to like about what we saw from this team. Their depth wasn't terrible and their front-running was wildly impressive. They'll be a top contender in the PAC-12 later this season.


12. NC State Wolfpack (+10 / 22)

Wow! What a performance for the Wolfpack. After a very ugly regular season last year, we were concerned about what we would see from this group in 2019. However, they put to rest any concerns after earning a huge 3rd place finish at Joe Piane this past Friday.


Ian Shanklin emerged as the true low-stick that many of us thought he could be. He placed 7th overall while Dayton transfer JP Flavin (who owns a 28:58 10k PR) gave the team a reliable #2 option with his 26th place finish.


However, it was the depth that really made this team a problem for their competitors. Bistritz, Burger, and Gaynor kept the excess scoring to a minimum with overall finishes of 38th, 43rd, and 62nd overall.


Yes, I understand that the NC State men were able to take down teams like Purdue and Notre Dame (who are still ranked ahead of them), but I would like to see if they can replicate a performance like this again. How much of an impact will their depth have in a smaller field like the ACC Championships? That's the main thought on my mind right now.


Regardless, this team has a lot to be proud of. They had the perfect lineup structure to succeed in South Bend and they made sure to take full advantage of that.


11. Purdue Boilermakers (0 / 11)

I desperately wanted to put the Boilermakers in our top 10 after their 4th place finish at Notre Dame this past Friday. Unfortunately, I couldn't find enough room.


After a very encouraging performance at the John McNichols Invite a few weeks ago, the Boilermakers validated themselves with another big result this past weekend. The team was led by their Big Three of Jaret Carpenter (13th), Brody Smith (16th), and Curt Eckstein (20th). That trio of scorers gave this team the scoring potency that they needed to finish as the best BIG 10 team in the field.


The gaps, however, continue to leave us cautious. Sophomore Bailey McIntire had a decent performance, finishing 53rd overall. However, Kyle Griffith dropped to 76th to close out their top five, leaving Purdue only one point shy of beating out 3rd place NC State.


However, the reason they remain ahead of the Wolfpack is because of Tyler Bowling who simply had an off day by finishing 95th overall. He was 17th at the John McNichols Invite, so we know that he's capable of doing so much more.


That thought process, plus another performance which validates them as a legitimate national contender, was enough (in our eyes) to put Purdue one spot ahed of NC State. We also think their backend offers more potential upside...for now.


10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-4 / 6)

The Fighting Irish men had a respectable race on their home course, placing 5th overall at the Joe Piane Invite. Nuguse was the clear leader of this team with a key 6th place finish while redshirt freshman Dylan Jacobs showed that he could be a legitimate ace by finishing 15th overall. With Andrew Alexander in 23rd place, it felt like Notre Dame could have earned a top three finish.


However, their bottom two scorers underwhelmed a ton. Anthony Williams placed 63rd overall while Danny Kilrea finished 80th. As a result, Notre Dame ended their day nine points behind Purdue and 10 points behind NC State.


This was a solid, respectable finish for Notre Dame, but they will need to be better in future races if they want to contend for a podium finish in 2019.


The good news, however, is that there is still a lot of potential upside for this group. Kilrea finishing 80th overall is not indicative of his actual talent. He was an All-American last year, but even if he only finished 30th this past weekend, the Fighting Irish easily jump to the 3rd spot in the overall results.


Not only that, but they still have a slew of reinforcements. Redshirt freshman Matthew Carmody finished runner-up in the Open race at Notre Dame. His time of 24:10 would have been put him around the 40th place position in the Gold race.


Had those two run to their full potential in the varsity race, Notre Dame begins to flirt with runner-up Ole Miss. Obviously, that's a hypothetical scenario, but it does put into perspective how much better this team can be.


9. Ole Miss Rebels (+9 / 18)

We mentioned this in our meet preview, but the course at the Joe Piane Invite heavily favored the middle distance speed of Ole Miss. Traditionally considered a track program, the Ole Miss Rebels took advantage of the fast course and threw down an incredible runner-up performance. They scored 107 points overall, easily separating themselves from every squad in the field (with the exception of meet winner Colorado).


Farah Abdulkarim was the key leader of this squad with a 12th place finish while 2018 All-American Waleed Suliman offered additional scoring potency in 17th place.


However, what really surprised me was seeing their bottom three scorers not far behind. Cade Bethamnn and Mario Garcia Romo placed 22nd and 24th, respectively. Parker Scott, who sat out during the fall of 2018, gave the team an incredibly clutch finish of his own by placing 32nd overall.


The only concern was seeing the rest of their varsity lineup fall to 92nd and 101st overall.


Even so, this was a very encouraging performance for Coach Vanhoy's team. A lot of people see Ole Miss as a track-centric group, but they have very clearly been able to handle both seasons incredibly well. I'll be interested to see how they handle hillier, slower courses throughout the rest of 2019.


8. Portland Pilots (0 / 8)

They raced their "B" squad at the Bill Dellinger Invite and still emerged with a 5th place finish. There isn't much to analyze, but it was encouraging to see redshirt freshman Justin Hazell step up for a 13th place finish. He could be a key scorer for this team later in the fall.


7. Washington Huskies (-2 / 5)

I don't at all understand what the Huskies are doing this season. After a rough 5th place finish at the Battle in Beantown, the Washington men explained that they would be debuting the rest of their squad at the Curtis XC Invite which took place this past weekend.


Mick Stanovsek was the winner while 2018 All-American Tibebu Proctor was runner-up. However, the catch was that Proctor ran unattached.


Is he redshirting? If so, why him? Why not redshirt Andrew Jordan and Jack Rowe, the two guys who won't have eligibility after this year?


We should note that all of Washington's star recruits also ran unattached, indicating that they may be redshirting as well. However, steeplechase star Alex Slenning (who ran 8:43 this past spring) made his debut by finishing 3rd overall.


Maybe this was just a test from Powell to see who was fit and healthy. If he didn't like a performance from one of his top guys, he could always sideline them for the rest of the season while maintaining a year of their eligibility.


Still, it just seems odd that they wouldn't redshirt Jordan or Rowe and go all-in next year.


6. Oregon Ducks (+3 / 9)

5. BYU Cougars (-2 / 3)

The Bill Dellinger Invite was supposed to be won by the BYU Cougars, but the Oregon Ducks had other plans. James West and Cooper Teare gave their team a nasty 1-2 punch by finishing 3rd and 4th overall. However, true freshman Cole Hocker and Syracuse transfer Noah Affolder were the real difference makers in this race, placing 9th and 14th, respectively. Jackson Mestler finished 24th overall to wrap up the scoring for the Ducks.


Despite the incredible depth from BYU (who placed 10 men inside the top 30), the Oregon men simply had too much firepower and took home the win by six points. However, the reason they stay behind BYU is because the Cougars didn't have Clayson Shumway.


There are rumors suggesting that Shumway is coming back from an injury, but until we see the BYU men toe the line for their next race, we can't write off Coach Eyestone's squad just yet. If Shumway returns, then BYU is still very much a podium contender. They would have won with him in their lineup.


Even so, that shouldn't take away from the fact that Oregon looks scary good this year. If Jackson Mestler can close the gap between him and Affolder, then the Ducks can be a podium team in 2019.


4. Colorado Buffaloes (+6 / 10)

We were concerned about Colorado's depth after their top three runners. Their returners from last year didn't always run well in 2018 and their youngsters lacked experience (and truthfully still do).


However, after a convincing win at the Joe Piane Invite where they beat runner-up Ole Miss by over 30 points, it's safe to say the Colorado men are back in the podium conversation.


Klecker and Dressel put together strong 3rd and 10th place finishes while Eduardo Herrera locked down a 14th place finish of his own. Of course, what we didn't expect to see was true freshman Kashon Harrison in 18th place. He was followed by senior Alec Hornecker who placed 26th overall.


It's clear that Wetmore understood where this team was going to be vulnerable in 2019 and obviously that has been addressed. There is still inexperience with a few of their backend scorers, but this team still put together a huge statement victory this past weekend.


3. Iowa State Cyclones (+1 / 4)

2. Stanford Cardinal (0 / 2)

1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (0 / 1)

ADDED

Florida State Seminoles

Boise State Broncos

Eastern Kentucky Colonels

KICKED OFF

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Iona Gaels

JUST MISS (in no order)

Villanova Wildcats

Georgetown Hoyas Virginia Cavaliers

Duke Blue Devils

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Iona Gaels

Furman Paladins

Gonzaga Bulldogs


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no order)

Wake Forest Deacons

Tulsa Golden Hurricanes

Virginia Tech Hokies

Army Black Knights

Utah State Aggies

Iowa Hawkeyes

Texas Longhorns

Arkansas Razorbacks

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK

NC State Wolfpack We were still having concerns about their 2018 regular season, but the Wolfpack stepped up this past weekend and made some noise. Shanklin was a better low-stick than we thought he would be and his supporting scorers were simply better than what the other top teams had to offer. On paper, this squad was going to be better than what we saw from them last year, but I'm not sure we saw them placing 3rd in that field.


TEAM OF THE WEEK

Colorado Buffaloes

The only concern we had about them has now been addressed. On paper, they have every tool they need in order to finish on the podium in November.

NOTES

- The Iona men dropped out of the rankings, but it wasn't because of their Paul Short performance. They ran their "B" squad in that race, so it's important that we don't overreact to that result.


- Tough race for Army at Paul Short. They finished 7th in the team standings despite running their top lineup. Maybe it was just an off day, but it was not a great result.


- If we had to assign a team to the #26 spot, it would likely be Furman. Ryan Adams looks like a stud and the guys he has behind him are solid scorers in their own right. Their 6th place finish at Bill Dellinger wasn't necessarily outstanding, but it was still halfway decent.