2019 Men's XC Top 25 Teams: Update #4

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. Villanova Wildcats (Unranked)

This season could have gone downhill very quickly for the Wildcats when you consider that Casey Comber doesn't appear to be at full strength. However, the Villanova men haven't flinched in the face of adversity and have instead adopted the "next man up" mentality.


Nearly everyone inside their top five has simply been better than they were in previous seasons. Josh Phillips and Haftu Strintzos have been pleasant surprises while Andrew Marston and Nathan Rodriguez (formerly of Iowa State) have given this team a lot of scoring stability.


They aren't perfect, and there are still gaps that need to be addressed, but finishing 2-3-6-8-17 at the BIG East Championships to beat out the Georgetown Hoyas is a respectable result.


This past weekend was also the first time we had seen Villanova's full "A" lineup in action.


24. Boise State Broncos (-4 / 20)

I'm not sure how to describe Boise State's race other than "bad".


At the Mountain West Championships, the Broncos were favored (depending on who you ask) to take home the team title. Instead, they faltered all the way to 4th place behind Utah State, Colorado State, and Wyoming.


Their top three was actually very respectable with Haller, Muhumed, and Armstrong placing 7th, 8th, and 13th, respectively. However, their bottom two scorers (which seems to be a legitimate problem for a handful of teams this season) were too far back in 26th place and 34th place.


Before we overreact, it should be noted that traditional #3 scorer Logan Rees was a DNF. Although it's never great to see someone not finish a race, it's important to recognize that Rees could have given the Broncos a major boost in the scoring.


Would it have been enough to upend Utah State? No, probably not, but it would have certainly given Boise State a better result.


23. Oklahoma State Cowboys (-2 / 21)

If you're an Oklahoma State fan, I have good news and bad news for you.


The good news is that the backend of the Cowboy's lineup performed better than expected at the BIG 12 Championships. Bryce Quigley, Alec Haines, and Alex Maier finished 14th, 18th, and 20th, respectively to give the Pokes five runners inside the top 20.


Additionally, Ryan Smeeton, who was running at the World Championships earlier this year, established himself as the low-stick that so many of us thought he could be by finishing 3rd place overall behind Isai Rodriguez.

Now for the bad news.


Ashanafi Hatte, a crucial low-stick for this team, recorded his second DNF of the season after also recording a DNF at Pre-Nats a few weeks ago. That is NOT a good sign for Oklahoma State who desperately needs all of their scoring power if they want to remain in the national qualifying conversation.


Their NCAA hopes aren't completely gone, especially after beating Texas (which will yield a Kolas point), but there is still a ton of uncertainty surrounding this team.


22. Virginia Cavaliers (Unranked)

21. Virginia Tech Hokies (Unranked)

The two in-state rivals battled at the ACC Championships this past weekend on Virginia Tech's home course. When the scores were tallied, it turned out that the two teams were tied at 100 points each. However, it was the Hokies who won the tie-breaker thanks to having the better 1-2-3 in the race.


Virginia Tech thrived with their scoring potency, rallying behind an individual win from Seufer while Zarate (6th) and Seyoum (11th) gave the team a strong trio up front. However, they relinquished a few points at the #4 and #5 spots with finishes of 30th and 51st.


Meanwhile, UVA employed a different strategy, utilizing outstanding pack-running and depth while sacrificing firepower. The Cavaliers went 12-20-21-22-25 with only a 16 second time spread.


These are two very different teams that happen to be at the same caliber this year. They are consistent and each offer a unique set of strengths. It's not a guarantee, but you can expect both of these groups to qualify for the national meet two weeks from now.


20. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (-1 / 19)

They took home the win at the Conference USA Championships by 17 points over a very underrated Charlotte team. I'm excited to watch how this team performs in a relatively deep South region.


19. Utah State Aggies (Unranked)

This has been a fringe team for our XC Top 25 for quite some time now. However, their statement victory at the Mountain West Championships this past weekend was enough to vault them to the #19 spot in our rankings.


Dallin Farnsworth has proven to be an incredibly valuable addition to this team after taking home the individual win. He was closely followed by Beattie (5th) and Withers (6th) while Garncia (14th) and Thorne (16th) closed out the scoring.


I like this team a lot. They are consistent, complete through five, have a great pack of scorers, and are now developing low-sticks such as Dallin Farnsworth to lead their lineup. There aren't many teams in the NCAA with as much momentum as Utah State right now.


18. Washington Huskies (0 / 18)

We didn't really learn anything about this team that we didn't already know. The Huskies finished 5th overall at the PAC-12 Championships, losing to UCLA by only three points. Just like Pre-Nats, Andrew Jordan was the star low-stick (this time with a 3rd place finish) while the rest of their lineup placed 18-19-23-24.


We did get to see the debut of star Kiwi freshman Sam Tanner, but he truthfully didn't offer much in terms of scoring potency, placing 24th overall.


Last year's runner-up in this race, Talon Hull, didn't even score for the Huskies on Friday while 2018 All-American Tibebu Proctor (who finished 14th in this race last year) was 18th.


They aren't a bad team, but I'm curious as to why no one (outside of Jordan) can seemingly match their performances (at any meet) from last year.

17. Iona Gaels (-1 / 16)

1-2-3-4-5-7-8 at the MAAC Championships.


Let's just move on.


16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+1 / 17)

The Fighting Irish were expected to win the ACC title this past Friday, but fell short of their goal (and Syracuse) by five points. Nuguse was the key 2nd place finisher that we expected him to be while redshirt freshman Dylan Jacobs validated himself as a low-stick by finishing 5th overall. With Andrew Alexander in 14th place and Matthew Carmody in 23rd, it seemed reasonable to think the Notre Dame men would be in position to take home the win.


However, 2018 All-American Danny Kilrea has continued to struggle this season. He finished 29th this past weekend, a result far off from where he was expected to finish coming into this season.


The Notre Dame men still put up a good fight, and there were a lot of positives to take away from this race. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't enough to defend their title.

15. Syracuse Orange (+7 / 22)

I can't begin to describe how incredible of a performance this was for the Syracuse men. They were absolutely horrific at the Nuttycombe Invite, finishing 24th overall with only two runners inside the top 130. With Aidan Tooker not listed in their lineup, there were very reasonable concerns for the Orange heading into the postseason.


That, however, all changed on Friday in Blacksburg, Virginia as Coach Bell's team put together one of the most phenomenal bounce back performances that I have ever seen. The men from Syracuse, without star low-stick Aidan Tooker, finished 9-10-15-16-18 in their typical pack-running style to secure the ACC title, beating out Notre Dame by only five points.


It seems poetic, doesn't it? One year after losing to the Irish by four points in an upset loss, the Syracuse men come back to beat Notre Dame by only five points in what many would consider to be an upset.


I still don't love the fact that Tooker is likely not going to be a part of this team for the rest of November. Joe Dragon has developed into a great runner, but the team still needs another low-stick to contend for a top finish at NCAA's.


Even so, props to Syracuse. They proved the doubters (us) wrong.


14. Ole Miss Rebels (+1 / 15)

No surprise here. The Ole Miss men rolled to an easy SEC title victory going 3-4-6-9-13. I wish there was more to analyze, but they were simply the better team through five scorers and I'm not sure if we have anything else to say other that.


13. Michigan Wolverines (+1 / 14)

The Michigan men ran exactly like we thought they would. Devin Myrer snuck into the top 10 (finishing 9th) while the rest of their scorers put together finishes of 14-16-17-22. Their depth through five runners was enough to hold off Purdue by four points. An additional low-stick would have made the Wolverines more competitive with Wisconsin and Indiana, but that's just now how their lineup is structured.


They may have beaten Purdue, but the Boilermakers have simply been the better team throughout the entire season and that shouldn't be discounted when it comes to our rankings.


12. Portland Pilots (-4 / 8)

They finished 2nd to BYU at the WCC Championships and despite running a handful of their top scorers, I struggle to take this result seriously. The Pilots haven't put much stock into their conference meet over the past few years and I'm not sure why that would change in 2019. Still, I felt like I needed to bump a few teams ahead of them.


11. Purdue Boilermakers (-4 / 7)

It was a very rough day for the Purdue men who couldn't overcome the weaknesses of their final two scorers. Carpenter (5th) and Eckstein (8th) gave the Boilermakers an identity at the front of this race while Brody Smith dropped back to 11th. The finishes of their top three were great to have, but in a smaller field where each team had low-sticks of their own, that scoring potency didn't have the same impact that it did at Nuttycombe.


Instead, the race came down to who had the better #4 and #5 runners. Unfortunately for Purdue, they lost that battle with finishes of 23rd and 35th, respectively.


They had such a strong regular season which makes it incredibly hard to drop them from our Top 10. However, teams like Wisconsin and Indiana, although they weren't as good as Purdue in the regular season, haven't had a poor performance like this.


I'm not ready to give up on Purdue. They had three outstanding races prior to BIG 10's, so let's not overreact just yet.


10. Indiana Hoosiers (0 / 10)

The Hoosiers took advantage of an off-day from Purdue and cashed in with a runner-up finish at the BIG 10 Championships, losing to Wisconsin by 14 points. Veatch was the leader for his squad this time around as he secured a 4th place finish while Mau crossed the line in 6th. Redshirt freshman Arjun Jha gave his team a reliable #3 scorer in 12th place while veteran Bryce Millar finished in 19th.


However, Dustin Horter being the final scorer in 29th place is ultimately what held this team back from contending with Wisconsin for the BIG 10 title. Horter, who finished 14th at this meet last year, hasn't quite met expectations that we set for him in 2019. Nonetheless, he has been a consistent top five scorer which has been enough to keep the IU men competitive.


9. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes (0 / 9)

No surprise here as the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes secured an easy win at the AAC Championships, putting together a 2-3-4-5-6 finish. We expect this team to cruise through their regional meet, so we won't really get a gauge of their talent until Nationals.


8. UCLA Bruins (-2 / 6)

It wasn't UCLA's best race as they finished 4th overall, only three points ahead of Washington. Brandt (5th), Reynolds (10th), and Burke (11th) did exactly what we thought they would...and so did their bottom two scorers (26th and 32nd). A 4th place finish isn't necessarily surprising when you look at who finished ahead of them, but to only edge out a struggling Washington team by three points isn't ideal.


I'm not ready to drop them too far in our rankings due to how well they have run throughout the entirety of the regular season, but we will certainly be cautious about how the second half of this lineup performs at the regional and national meets.


7. Wisconsin Badgers (+4 / 11)

We had a few upsets this weekend, and the Badgers taking home the BIG 10 title could be argued as one of them. The Badgers put all five of their scorers inside the top 20 of the race, something that no other team could boast.


Oliver Hoare took home the individual win while Olin Hacker gave the team a very nice boost at the #2 scoring spot by finishing 7th with Eidenschink (13th), Sharp (15th), and Aljabaly (20th) rounding out the scoring.


Even if the team didn't have Aljabaly, they still had Seth Hirsch back in 27th and that still would have been enough for the Badgers to win the title.


I like the experience of the Wisconsin veterans up front and I think their younger scores on the backend have some underrated upside. Admittedly, I'm not sure that their regular season performances warrant a jump to the #7 spot in our rankings, but they have been extremely consistent and have made notable improvements throughout the year.


Plus, a handful of other teams ranked ahead of them didn't look so great at their respective conference meets.


6. Oregon Ducks (+6 / 12)

Wow! What an incredible performance by the Oregon men. The Ducks surprised the nation by snagging a runner-up finish at the PAC-12 Championships and beating out a highly-ranked Stanford team. Cooper Teare was the star of his squad with an incredibly clutch 2nd place finish while James West rebounded from his Nuttycombe performance to place 9th.


There were concerns about how the middle portion of this lineup would fare without Noah Affolder, but the depth that we have been talking about all season stepped up when it mattered the most. Jackson Mestler, who struggled slightly during the regular season, had a strong performance by finishing 14th overall.


However, the real step-up star was Charlie Hunter who finished 15th overall after essentially being a non-factor in the regular season. With true freshman Cole Hocker closing out the scoring in 17th place, the Ducks showed that they are still a legitimate podium contender without Affolder.


And the best part? Their #6 runner still finished in the top 20 (Jack Yearian, 20th).


5. Iowa State Cyclones (0 / 5)

As expected, the Iowa State men took home the BIG 12 title relatively easily, putting up a score of 34 points and defeating runner-up Oklahoma State by 24 points. There's not much else to say about the Cyclones. Their next real test of the postseason will likely be at Nationals since they can cruise to a qualifier at their regional meet.

4. Stanford Cardinal (-2 / 2)

Tough day for the Stanford men who were simply overwhelmed, not only by Colorado, but also by the Oregon Ducks. Ratcliffe and Ostberg performed as expected with a pair of top six finishes, but both Fahy (16th) and Parsons (21st) underwhelmed, failing to provide the necessary scoring potency that we expected to see from them entering this season.


The Cardinal have shown us throughout the season that they were the clear #2 team in the country, but it's now apparent that their diluted scoring potency is having a negative impact on them in the postseason.


3. BYU Cougars (0 / 3)

It was a relatively easy win for the BYU men as they took home the top three spots at the WCC Championships. It's tough to gauge the competitiveness of this meet given how Portland likes to take a conservative approach. Regardless, I'm not sure this meet told us anything that we didn't already know.

2. Colorado Buffaloes (+2 / 4)

Entering the season, we expected Colorado to be competitive, but we thought their greatest vulnerability would be the backend of their lineup. Instead, that has turned into their greatest strength.


The Buffs took home the PAC-12 title this past weekend, beating out a handful of top-tier teams. Klecker took home the individual win while true freshman Kashon Harrison secured a 7th place finish, one spot ahead of Dressel. However, the real surprise was seeing typical #5 man Alec Hornecker have the race of his life to finish 12th overall (one spot ahead of Eduardo Herrera).


BYU may have edged out the Buffs at Pre-Nats, but after a convincing conference win, it's hard not to give the Colorado men the #2 spot in our rankings. Kudos to Mark Wetmore and his group who have made us look dumb time and time again.


1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (0 / 1)

The Lumberjacks held out a handful of their top men (Grijalva, Ferro, Nur) and let the rest of their roster secure the BIG Sky conference title. Nice race by true freshman Drew Bosley who pulled away for the win in tough, snowy conditions.

ADDED

Utah State Aggies

Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Cavaliers

Villanova Wildcats

KICKED OFF

NC State Wolfpack

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Alabama Crimson Tide

Florida State Seminoles


JUST MISS (in no order)

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Penn Quakers

Alabama Crimson Tide

Wake Forest Deacons

Florida State Seminoles

NC State Wolfpack

Weber State Wildcats


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no order)

Army Black Knights

Navy Midshipmen

Penn State Nittany Lions

Furman Paladins

Texas Longhorns

Colorado State Rams

Charlotte 49ers

Georgetown Hoyas

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Harvard Crimson


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK

Syracuse Orange

If you would have told me that the Orange would win the ACC title after placing 24th at Nuttycombe, I probably would have laughed at you. Giving them "Surprise of the Week" honors is a no-brainer.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Colorado Buffaloes

When you win the PAC-12 title over three other TSR Top 10 teams, it's hard for anyone else to win this honor. Colorado is now a podium favorite and I'm not sure anyone is going to argue with me on that one.


NOTES

- NC State is not the same team that we saw at Joe Piane where they finished 3rd. JP Flavin is likely out for the season and not having Joe Bistritz at ACC's is also concerning. There was a substantial gap between their top two and bottom three on Friday which resulted in an 8th place finish.


- Not the best day from the Florida State men who finished 6th at ACC's this past weekend, falling behind Wake Forest by a significant margin. It's their first race of the season where they have underperformed, but when you consider that they were already on the fringe of our rankings (at #25), it's hard to keep them listed.


- I can't figure out what is going on with Southern Utah. They've had an up and down season, but severely underwhelmed at the BIG Sky Championships, finishing 4th overall. Depending on how they perform at the Mountain Regional Championships, they may push in a surprise squad to Nationals.