Updated: Jan 13
We are rapidly approaching our 2019 Preseason XC Top 25 Team Rankings. The rankings will consist of a month-long release that details each team's unique strengths, potential weaknesses, and key aspects of their roster structure. Below are the teams who just missed out on earning a spot in our Top 25. Don't worry though, we'll be updating our rankings throughout the year, so there's always a chance that your team will be ranked later this fall.
With all of that said, let's begin our 2019 Just Miss and Honorable Mention teams!
Women's Honorable Mentions coming tomorrow...
JUST MISSED (in no order)
Florida State Seminoles
On paper, this is a respectable group that should be able to stay somewhat competitive through the 2019 season, especially with the recent addition of Kasey Knevelbaard. The Southern Utah transfer gives the ‘Noles a key low-stick to lean on while Caleb Pottorff and Steven Cross seem to be capable support pieces at the #2 and #3 positions (despite lacking some consistency). However, the veterans who finished their eligibility have left Florida State with a handful of good questions as to who will make up the second-half of their lineup.
Lipscomb transfer Silas Griffith will be a nice addition for that top five, but there is still a ton of scoring potency that is lacking. Luckily, this team is generally on the younger side (at least on the backend) and has plenty of room to improve.
There are handful of other teams who are simply more equipped to earn a top spot in our team rankings, but Florida State could have a sneaky good lineup later this fall.
Colorado State Rams
It absolutely pains me to leave this team out of our rankings after they put together a pair of magical performances at Nationals in back-to-back years. After earning consecutive 9th place finishes at NCAA’s in 2017 and 2018, the Rams must unfortunately fall out of our Preseason Top 25.
They have some very solid and experienced depth, but the loss of Rockhold, Hume, and Hamer is going to be extremely difficult to overcome. The team will also lose Trent Powell who occasionally played a role in CSU’s scoring last fall. Guys like Jacob Breukman and Forrest Barton, Max Martinez, and Satchel Caldwell are reliable pieces, but the glaring absence of firepower is concerning.
After a great freshman year on the track (he was redshirted during the fall), Michael Mooney could prove to be a high-potential asset for Coach Siemer’s squad as they look to rebuild the front portion of their top seven.
This was a tough team to leave out. We occasionally debated about putting them in our Top 25, but at the end of the day there wasn’t enough room to keep them in the rankings. Casey Comber is an elite low-stick who could be one of the best in the nation by the end of the fall. Andrew Marston is a perfect complement at the #2 position and has been for quite some time. However, the rest of their lineup is where things get tricky.
The Wildcats have a ton of options to choose from when sorting out their top seven such as Nick Steele, Martin Barr, Logan Wetzel, Charlie O'Donavan, Paul Power, Josh Phillips, and a few others. Yet, as valuable as each name is, they also carry with them (minor) liabilities. Whether that be inconsistency, lesser experience, or the need for additional development, the Wildcats will need to find some stability throughout the rest of their varsity lineup if they want to be defeat Georgetown for the BIG East title and earn a spot to Nationals.
Speaking of Georgetown, the Hoyas are the next team to be named on our Just Missed list. Both Nicholas Wareham and Jack Van Scoter are great low-sticks that are consistent and can be relied upon. Others like Eion Nohilly, Matthew Bouthillette, Jack Salisbury, and Spencer Brown (if he returns for his final season of eligibility) are solid in their own right, but no longer having Christian Liddell isn’t ideal.
This team has a lot of upside with younger runners like Rusty Kujdych and a top-tier recruiting class, but the Hoyas will need a spark from one or two others in order to become legitimate contenders on the national stage (which could very easily happen over the next few months).
Eastern Kentucky Colonels
One team that has been historically great is Eastern Kentucky which is why leaving them out of our Top 25 was a bit of a struggle. They have a phenomenal leader in James Sugira as well as a respectable supporting piece such as Samuel Abascal. Guys like Zach Stewart and Antoine Senard will likely fill in the gaps, but after losing three established veterans (Corrales, Rotich, Romo) that made up the middle portion of last year’s top five, it is going to be extremely difficult for the Colonels to rebound. Plus, as good as James Sugira is, any improvements he makes will have little to no impact on the team score.
That said, this is a team that does a very good job at recruiting. There is a strong probability that a name we haven’t heard of yet steps up and contributes to their top five. But until that happens, EKU will need to settle for a spot outside of our XC Top 25…for now.
It feels odd leaving out such an established team from our rankings, especially one that came away with the victory at the Penn State Open last fall. However, they failed to qualify for Nationals and will be losing one of their best runners in Brent Demarest. The expected return of Lachlan Cook will offset some of the departing firepower, but the end result is clearly a net-loss.
Even so, this is a team that will have a solid balance of scoring pieces between AJ Ernst, Alex Corbett, Rohann Asfaw, and Ari Klau. There are also a handful of rising sophomores who could have an impact in 2019 after a majority of them redshirted last fall. Still, there are notable areas that need to be improved for the Virginia men which, collectively, is enough to keep them out our preseason team rankings.
Army West Point Black Knights
One team that sparked some interest last fall was Army. The Black Knights were one of the deepest teams in the eastern portion of the United States. They were consistently competitive and were led by a rising low-stick in Roman Ollar. After winning the Patriot League title over Boston U. and Bucknell, I felt like this was a team that could've earned an automatic qualifying spot to Nationals out of the Northeast.
Ultimately, Army ended up in 3rd at their regional meet, leaving them out of qualifying for NCAA's. Still, this group returns all but one of their runners from last fall. The team still has Roman Ollar to lean on while the rest of their lineup is mostly rising seniors and juniors. Army will no longer have Mikey Singer, but there are enough pieces for them to be a considerable problem for other Northeast teams come October and November.
HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no order)
Temple is one of the more underrated teams in the NCAA this year. They only lose one man from last year's squad which went on to upset the Army Black Knights. They have respectable low-sticks (relative to the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region) and have quietly strong depth. The Owls will need to improve overall as a team to make it to Nationals this year, but seeing them in Terre Haute is a very real possibility.
Wake Forest Deacons
Much like Temple, Wake Forest has made notable improvements over the past few years. They have a young low-stick in Zach Facioni while the rest of their lineup is also expected to develop and make improvements. The Deacons have a handful of high-potential individuals who could make an impact on their lineup this fall. If that happens, then this team could sneak into Nationals if everything falls their way.
Air Force Falcons
Over the last few years, Air Force has continued to shatter expectations. They got snubbed from a Top 25 ranking last fall and made us look foolish by tearing up the course every time they toed the line. However, the team loses a number of their veteran low-sticks from last fall. The Falcons have a limited options when it comes to their varsity lineup this year, but based on what they have done as of late, I could see them staying relevant on the national stage.
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Injecting Choge and Chemadi back into their lineup will certainly make this team interesting, but they have significant gaps at the backend of their lineup. When those two were redshirted last fall, this team struggled quite a bit in meets that frankly weren't that competitive. This team will need to find additional scoring pieces outside of Choge and Chemadi to make their way into our Top 25, but if they find the right guys, then MTSU will be a key team to watch.
This was a team that was right on the line of our Just Missed list and our Honorable Mention list. Much like Air Force, this group has made some serious noise over the past few years. They are consistently one of the deepest teams in the country and have found a way to stay competitive in the NCAA despite their small-school size.
The Gary's are phenomenal coaches, but after losing a crucial low-stick in Aaron Templeton, the rest of the squad will need to make significant improvements if they want to fight for a spot to Nationals. They have a complete lineup with guys like Ryan Adams, Daniel Bernal, Cam Ponder, Mason Coppi, Jake Ogden, and Trent Mandato, but the gaps in last year's varsity seven will need to be addressed if the Paladins want to advance past the Southeast Regional Championships later this fall.