Updated: Jan 13
The Colorado Mines Orediggers finished last year as the second best team in the country. They finished just 10 points behind a Grand Valley State team who was simply far too much to handle. They bring back five of those seven runners, all who finished inside the top 70 at last year’s NCAA meet.
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The team loses Josh Hoskinson and Grant Colligan to graduation which means that, on paper, Logan Ramlet will be leading the Orediggers in 2019. He finished 15th at Nationals last year.
We would tell you more about Ramlet’s cross country season, but...there actually wasn’t more than that. He finished 5th at the Pre-Nationals and then waited another month to race where he finished 13th at the South Central Regional Championships.
His teammate Luc Hagen only had two more meets under his belt in 2018. He started at the Colorado Collge Invitational where he finished 6th before heading to Pre-Nationals five weeks later. There he finished 3rd overall in that, but was also the third scorer on his team as Mines scored 19 points. Hagen finished 8th at the RMAC Championships two weeks later before DNFing at the South Central Regional Championships.
We don’t have an idea as to why he DNF'd, but it could have had a role in why he fell to 33rd at the national meet just two weeks after that. Hagen proved that he’s a legitimate talent as he continued to qualify for the indoor and outdoor national meets. If he can get everything in order, he has the potential to take over the number one spot for the Orediggers.
Last year’s fourth runner and third returner for Colorado Mines is Luke Julian. The sophomore certainly made a name for himself during the track season last year as he posted some of the best times in the country for 1500 meters. He also placed 41st at last year’s NCAA Championships. He ran in only three meets the entire season starting at the RMAC Championships where he placed 22nd, and the moved up to 17th at the South Central Regional Championships. Given his 14:10 personal best from the track season, there is no reason that Julian shouldn’t be one of the better cross country runners come this fall.
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Derek Steele and Jake Mitchem are the last two athletes who will be returning from the top seven in 2018. Steele finished 66th while Mitchem finished 67th. Both only competed in four meets as their workload was closely managed just like the rest of the roster. They ran the fastest marks of their career for 8000 meters at the Pre-Nationals course as Steele ran 25:37 and Mitchem ran 25:48.
Improvement should be expected from these two as they saw it during the track season where they both ran bests in the 3000 steeplechase. At the end of the 2019 season, we shouldn't be surprised if they end up improving significantly.
A couple of names who could fill out the final two spots for the Mines roster include Ben Schneiderman and Dylan Ko. Scheniderman brings experience to the roster as he’s been to multiple national championships and was an All-American in the 10k on the track this past outdoor season.
As for Ko, he was on pace to be a part of the top seven before his DNF at the South Central Regional Championships. He finished 9th in the 10k this outdoor season and that likely means that his new-found fitness should translate during this upcoming cross country season.
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The Colorado Mines men always seems to have one of the deepest rosters in the country and it should come as no surprise that we are talking about them once again. They have a legitimate shot at taking home the title this fall as they prepare for an all-out assault on the other D2 powerhouses in the NCAA.
The Mountaineers of Western Colorado looked to have been on a rebuilding trajectory last year, especially after they lost one of their star runners in Ahmed Jama. Yet, despite what seemed like an initial lack of depth, they ended up finishing 3rd as a team at Nationals behind some strong performances from Taylor Stack, Charlie Sweeney, and Ross Husch.
The good news is that all three of them are returning this year. Stack is only a junior, Sweeney will be a sophomore, and Husch will be a senior. The better news? Jama will be returning after a redshirt season, giving the Mountaineers four legitimate All-American runners.
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Let’s start with Stack. He had one of the best 2018-2019 seasons of anyone in Division 2. It began with his 5th place finish at the Joe I. Vigil XC Meet. He was runner-up at his home meet before finishing 5th again at the Lewis Crossover meet while leading the Mountaineers to a very impressive team win. He finished 4th the RMAC Championships and then 7th at the South Central Regional Championships.
All of that would be impressive by itself, but it only gets better as Stack improved by two positions at the NCAA meet where he placed 5th while leading the team to a 3rd place finish.
Now enters Sweeney. He was just a freshman last year, but certainly made headlines as he placed 13th at Nationals. The young star in the making gradually improved his positioning as the season went on. In his first-ever race, he finished 10th. He then moved up to 7th at Western Colorado's home meet. At the Lewis Crossover meet he finished 14th and ran 25:06. He then finished 13th in the RMAC Championships before going on to the South Central Regional Championships where he showed his 10k strength by finishing 11th.
And if the track season told us anything, it’s that this season was not a fluke in the slightest.
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The next returner is Ross Husch. He’s one of the most consistent runners that Western has to offer. He’s qualified for multiple national championships and he’ll be one of two seniors on this team in the scoring group heading into 2019. He was the third All-American for Western last year as he finished 34th at NCAA's. He ran similar times to Sweeney throughout the season and actually switched scoring positions with him a few times.
Husch ran 14:12 this past track season for 5000 and that’s what has intrigued me the most. It’s a personal best by three seconds and he can take that same improvement into cross country, we’re talking about three possible athletes within the top 25 at Nationals.
The last name to talk about in-depth is Ahmed Jama. He redshirted last year, but the year before that he was 24th at the NCAA Cross Country meet. Later that spring, he finished in 6th place in the 10k. He holds a personal best of 29:33 on the track and is the strongest 10k runner this team has as of right now (Sweeney could take over that in 2019).
If he’s healthy for 2019, he takes this team to a whole new (nearly unstoppable) level.
Albert Hesse was just outside the top 40 the 2018 NCAA Championships while Western Colorado's #7 runner (Ricky Esqueda) finished 80th. The continued improvement for these three will also be essential as you can never have too much depth at the NCAA meet, especially with teams mostly being defined by their top-tier firepower. Throw in Evan Sutherland’s name as well and you have three runners who should all compete for a spot inside the top seven, making it awful hard for anyone else to beat them.
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It's easy to talk about D2 powerhouses like Adams State, Grand Valley State, Colorado Mines, and Chico State. But you can't mention any of those teams without talking about the Western Colorado men. This is one of the best squads in the country and in 2019, they should be primed to bring home the national title.