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2021 D2 Indoor Top 25 Rankings (Men): Update #5


TSR contributors may value certain aspects and ranking criteria differently between men and women when constructing our Indoor Top 25...

 

KEY

(Unranked):

Was not ranked in our last update.

(#/#):

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

The second number indicates where they were ranked in our last update.

 

25. Josh Pierantoni, Junior, Colorado Christian (-3 / 22)

Colorado Christian sophomore Josh Pierantoni wrapped up his indoor season on a high note, extending his season-long streak of encouraging performances.


Pierantoni raced the 5k at the national meet where he finished 9th overall. He notched a mark of 14:01 to set a new personal best at the distance. While he narrowly missed cracking the top-eight in the field, Pierantoni spent most of the race deeper in the back-half. The junior eventually maneuvered his way up the field and probably could have gained another spot by moving just a bit sooner.


However, none of that should detract from the race he ran. A personal best and confirmation of being one of the top distance runners can’t hurt. This experience will only help Pierantoni going forward.


24. Afewerki Zeru, Sophomore, UC-Colorado Springs (-11 / 13)

Afewerki Zeru had a bit of a rough start to the NCAA Championships. When you consider that it was his first time at the national level on the track, we can likely attribute it to inexperience and the results reflect that suspicion.


The sophomore from UCCS contested both the 5k and 3k last weekend. He came out a little flat in the 5000 meters, not sporting a good finish place-wise (14th). However, Zeru did manage to secure a new raw-time personal best of 14:20. The good news is that by day two, Zeru seemed to have settled in. The sophomore stayed in the thick of things the entirety of the 3k final until the last lap, finishing in 8th place overall.


The next time we see Zeru toe the line on a track at the national level, it’s safe to say he’ll do a lot better. He made huge strides in just the span of a day to close out his indoor season on a high note. He's a solid talent who has proven on numerous occasions that he can be nationally competitive. Now the UCCS ace just needs to put himself in the next tier.


23. Ayman Zahafi, Senior, Texas A&M Kingsville (-9 / 14)

Ayman Zahafi may not be satisfied with his performance at the national meet, but he should be and here’s why...


After bursting out of the woodwork at the last possible moment in the season to qualify for the national meet, Zahafi placed 6th in the 800 meters last weekend. He ran a shade under the 1:50 barrier, clocking a time of 1:49 in the finals. Was this his best race? No. Does it matter? Well, it shouldn’t matter too much, considering it was only his second collegiate race this entire calendar year.


The standard he’s established for himself is a testament to his talent. This is a guy who still came through with a personal best an All-American finish in a high-stakes environment. Imagine what he can do when gains more consistency and develops some momentum.


22. CarLee Stimpfel, Sophomore, Saginaw Valley (-12 / 10)

CarLee Stimpfel closed out his indoor campaign with a very average (but not bad) finish at the national meet. The Saginaw Valley sophomore qualified and competed in both the 3k and 5k in Birmingham, although we were left wanting a little bit more from the recent breakout talent.


In the 5000 meters, Stimpfel just didn’t respond well over the last 1k of the race, but that’s not an uncommon occurrence to any runner. He finished 10th overall in a time 14:03. That mark is a little short of his best effort, but he didn’t completely blow up and he still put together a solid effort. In the 3000 meters, Stimpfel fared a bit better, but placed 10th once again in a time of 8:08.


In all actuality, no one could really complain about those results. We simply had higher expectations for Stimpfel based on his earlier performances this indoor season. He ran wicked fast times and secured multiple wins over elite-level D2 talent, specifically from Grand Valley State. His national meet performance may not have been great, but it wasn't bad either and it shouldn't take away from how strong he was this winter.


21. Austin Miller, Rs. Senior, Augustana (S.D.) (-1 / 20)

Even on the national stage, Augustana’s Austin Miller embodied the "workhorse" label. Miller qualified for both the mile and the 800 meters, and opted to compete in both.


And the crazy thing? Miller actually pulled it off somewhat successfully.


On day one, Miller looked really good, dropping a 4:06 in the prelims to advance in the mile before coming back not even an hour later to run 1:52 in the prelims and advance in the 800 meters. On day two, however, Miller had to be feeling the strain on his legs. The Augustana senior clocked a time of 4:10 to placce 7th in the mile final before running the 800 meters only forty minutes later where he finished 8th.


Although 7th and 8th place finishes don't exactly scream "elite" that double still has to be considered a success. Miller ran arguably two of the hardest-effort distances with a less-than-ideal amount of rest. Despite all of that, he still came away with two All-American finishes.


That takes a lot of guts, so you have to tip your hat to him. Miller has been one of the most durable runners in the NCAA and few men were able to effectively double (and in some cases triple) like he was able to.


20. Arnaud Taki, Rs. Senior, West Texas A&M (-1 / 19)

Add Arnaud Taki to the list of breakthrough performers from the Big Dance. The half-miler from West Texas A&M finally had the best race of his career and peaked at the perfect time of the season.


After a winter where he repeatedly came oh-so close to cracking the 1:50 barrier, Taki finally got under that mark. The senior tactically qualified for the 800 meter final and showed up when the stakes were the highest. Taki ran 1:49 to place 5th overall and was rewarded for his season-long consistency.


Taki may not have gotten the win, but he has to be somewhat satisfied with a new personal best, especially given the timing. He also showed some quality tactics in the prelim, so we were encouraged by that as well.


19. Nathan Hood, Senior, CSU-Pueblo (Unranked)

Nathan Hood fully asserted himself amongst the nation’s best half-milers on the national stage. It’s one thing to qualify, but the junior from CSU-Pueblo did more than just that.


Hood snuck into the final, taking the second-to-last qualifying spot by fractions of a second over a few others. Then, in the final, Hood had a breakthrough performance. The Thunderwolf took 4th place overall with a raw time of 1:49. Hood finally broke the 1:50 barrier and took home an All-American nod.


This guy has been beyond consistent throughout his career and has often put himself in positions where he is one of the more competitive half-milers in the country. His experience paid off for him on the national stage.


18. Mason Strader, Sophomore, Pittsburg State (Unranked)

Mason Strader has to be amongst those in consideration for being the most consistent runner in the NCAA. The Pittsburg State sophomore ran three separate mile races last weekend and had near-identical times.


Strader ran a 4:06 in the mile prelims to advance to the finals. Then, he anchored his DMR team to a win that same day, splitting 4:06 to stave off GVSU’s Caleb Futter and a monstrous comeback effort from Missouri Southern’s Ryan Riddle. On day two, Strader finished 6th in the mile final running, you guessed it, a time of 4:06.


It's one thing to run a 4:06 mile as a sophomore. It's another thing to run that well on the national stage. However, to back-to-back-to-back 4:06 miles in the same weekend on a high-stakes stage as only a sophomore is wildly impressive. That consistency is really what boosts Strader in our rankings.


17. Kyle Moran, Junior, Colorado Mines (-11 / 6)

The only thing that worked against Kyle Moran last weekend was the bar that he had set for himself. Moran came into Nationals as the eighth seed in the 3000 meters and the second seed in the 5000 meters. In the case of the 5k, he was the top challenger to Christian Noble, at least on paper. Now, while he fell a bit short of that, Moran still had a solid showing.


Starting in the 5k, Moran placed 8th overall, notching a new raw-time personal best of 13:56 en route to his All-American finish. That time didn’t fall too far off from the winner either as it was still within 10 seconds. The 3k, however, is where Moran underperformed a bit.


The junior came in slotted to score, but failed to crack the top-eight positions. Being in the latter-half of his double, his legs were probably feeling a bit heavy, so no one can discredit him too much.


At the end of the day, Moran still gets a nod as one of the top distance runners in the nation. However, from a tactical standpoint, this wasn't his best weekend. It's a bit crazy that someone as talented as this Colorado Mines junior can run 13:56 on the national stage and only finish 8th after posting top-tier marks all season long.


16. Ian Johnson, Senior, Ashland (Unranked)

The middle distance talent from Ashland came on strong as he closed out his indoor track season. Ian Johnson certified himself as one of the best milers in the nation with his consistency at the national meet.


Johnson started his national meet weekend with the mile prelims, advancing to the finals in a time of 4:06. He came back the same day to anchor Ashland’s DMR to a 5th place finish, splitting 4:08. Then, after a night’s rest, the Ashland senior stole some individual glory, taking 5th place in the mile and adding essential points to Ashland’s national team title campaign.


Johnson consistently ran three fast miles in a short timeframe, scoring crucial points with each effort he made and it paid off in spades. The Ashland men got a team title in large part to Johnson’s efforts, and he walked away with two All-American nods.


Throughout the entirety of the season, Johnson showed off the some of the best consistency in the NCAA and flexed some underrated range. He took down eventual national title winner Dennis Mbuta at the GLIAC Championships and effectively doubled on numerous occasions throughout the winter.


Johnson was a top talent who we often tried to find a spot for in our rankings, but last weekend gave us all of the validation we needed for him to find a spot in our Top 25.


15. Jan Lukas Becker, Sophomore, Queens (N.C.) (+3 / 18)

Jan Lukas Becker had a nice double at the national meet, running personal best times in both the 5000 meters and the 3000 meters, all while playing a key role in how these races unfolded.


The Queens (N.C.) sophomore started with the 5k where he ran a blistering time of 13:51. Becker stuck with the top contenders the whole way through the race before finishing 6th overall. He came back the next day and just missed finishing in the top-eight, placing 9th in a time of 8:07.


That 3k effort was a still a personal best for Becker and he outperformed his seed in that race. All in all, Becker can check this meet off as a success. The sophomore was having a breakout season, but this was the meet where he had the chance to validate himself as a true national contender.


Sure enough, he did that and threw down an elite-level 5k personal best in the process. The momentum that we saw him build all winter long is legit.


14. Butare Rugenerwa, Junior, West Texas A&M, (-2 / 12)

Rugenerwa is one of the few runners who didn’t move our rankings all that much after their performance at the NCAA Championships. The West Texas A&M athlete shifts only slightly to our TSR #14 position after finishing 3rd in the 800 meters last weekend.


The only thing that you could knock Rugenerwa for at the indoor national meet was potentially his tactics/positioning as he had to run out in lane three to pass those ahead of him. Even so, that approach still produced a big-time result as he clocked a time of 1:48.75.


Had his racing been a little more on point, we could be talking about more than just how he finished 3rd. In fact, we could be talking about him being a national champion.


This was a nice return season for Rugenerwa who looks even fitter than he was in 2019. While he’ll be looking for a better finish in May, he should be excited about where his current fitness is now. He was able to run a super fast time, was consistent all year and can potentially get even better once he refines his tactics.


13. Seb Anthony, Queens (N.C.), Senior (Unranked)

Speaking of the 800 meters, we have Seb Anthony back in our rankings. The Queens middle distance star had all the makings to be one of the top-talents in the country coming into the season, but a few of his performances coming into the national meet, while certainly not bad, were just a tad underwhelming.


But ultimately, none of that mattered. Anthony proved why he’s a legitimate title threat as he narrowly finished 2nd overall at the NCAA meet to eventual winner Dennis Mbuta. His late charge was enough to sneak by the aforementioned Rugenerwa and give him a wicked fast personal best of 1:48.


As we head into the outdoor season Anthony has proven from prior years and this past eason that he can challenge for a title. Can he now put it all together and win one?


12. Tanner Chada, Junior, Grand Valley State (-9 / 3)

Tanner Chada showed some real grit and persistence at the national meet. The GVSU ace had a rough showing in the 5000 meters, and wasn’t able to close late in the race with the top of the field.


However, the junior had a quick turnaround in the next day’s 3000 meter race. The GVSU runner stuck it out and brought home a 5th place finish in what was a dramatic affair to the line. He got the better of some big names along the way, beating Western Colorado’s Charlie Sweeney and Colorado Mines’ Dylan Ko (amongst others).


Chada displayed serious toughness to be able to bounce back in such a big way. It may not be all that he wanted, but Chada still handled business and deserves a lot of credit for it. We've seen him produce top finishes before and he's delivering on his potential, but it feels like he is still one tier away from translating his regular season performances to the national stage.


11. Luke Julian, Junior, Colorado Mines, (-7 / 4)

An aggressive national meet workload seemed to get the better of Luke Julian this time around, but he still put together some respectable results.


The Colorado Mines junior made it through the mile prelims on day one with a 4:06, but fell a little flat on day two. In the mile final, Julian just didn’t manage to hang in the end as Ryan Riddle took over before succumbing to Tony Torres and James Young. Julian finished 4th in that race with a respectable 4:05, although that's not where the converted sub-four miler would finish. He later doubled back in the 3k, but didn’t seem to have any legs left.


Overall, Julian managed to put together a solid weekend when you consider that he finished 4th at the national meet. Even so, his loss could be considered an upset and his 3k effort didn't do much to inspire.


Given what he accomplished this fall, we can't crater Julian's ranking. He still ran a converted 3:58 and showed off a level of firepower throughout the season that left us wildly impressed.


10. Taylor Stack, Senior, Western Colorado (-2 / 8)

9. Charlie Sweeney, Junior, Western Colorado (-4 / 5)

Stack falls two spots in our rankings, but we’re basically splitting hairs here. The Western Colorado senior took home two more All-American honors last weekend. He placed 7th in the 5000 meters on day one of the NCAA Championships and bounced back with an even better effort on day two when he finished 4th in the 3000 meters.


Stack set a personal best in the 5k running 13:54 and bettering his outdoor PR by more than four seconds. His ability to come back in the 3000 meters and look as good as he did should boost a runner more times than not. His durability and consistency this season seems to be a bit stronger.


Meanwhile, Sweeney gets the bigger fall here despite him also bringing home two All-American honors. On day one, Sweeney finished 5th in the 5k, running a time of 13:51. He came back on day two to finish 7th in the 3k. Those were both solid finishes, but one could argue that his performances throughout the entirety of this season suggested that he could've been in the top-three of both races.


Even so, I don’t think you can knock either of these runners when it’s all said and done. They raced like they always have and were in the thick of things for the entirety of the weekend. There’s more for these two when they get to the outdoor circuit and they’ll both be title contenders in their respective events depending on what Noble, Harding and a few others decide to chase.


8. Dylan Ko, Junior, Colorado Mines (-1 / 7)

Like it was said above, we are splitting the finest of hairs here. Ko finished just ahead of Sweeney in the 5000 meters running 13:50 and taking 44 seconds off of his actual, non-converted personal best. Day two was more of the same as he ran 8:05 in the 3000 meters to take 7th overall, setting a personal best by four seconds.


Yes, those are both personal bests in large part to racing at altitude, but it’s time to give Ko the respect he deserves. He’s been running fast at sea level and at altitude for a full calendar year now and he’s proven that he’s just as fast as the altitude conversions say.


That said, we're still waiting to see how he best capitalize on the tactical positioning and translate his times into a race where he's actually competing for a national title.


7. Ryan Riddle, Sophomore, Missouri Southern (+2 / 9)

Riddle solidified himself as one of the best milers in the country earlier in the season. If it weren’t for a couple of stumbles, he may have moved up more than just two spots after his weekend.


Riddle took home a pair of 3rd place finishes last weekend and his first All-American honors of his short career. He anchored his DMR team home to a bronze medal and also finished 3rd in the mile the next day. He faded at the end of his individual mile and that ultimately led to him finishing where he did. Of course, Riddle still ran a time of 4:01 and in most years, that gives him a title. Unfortunately for him, 2021 is not a normal year.


Overall, it's hard to dislike Riddle. He was so darn consistent, made himself an elite name in the mile, took down top-level names and even showed off range. He could've potentially tweaked his moves in the mile finals a bit better, but overall he was still one of the best racers in the NCAA.


6. Tony Torres, Junior, Colorado Mesa (Unranked)

Torres flies into our rankings and for good reason. The Tucson native has quietly put together a very good calendar year of running and it finally came to fruition last weekend. Torres set a personal best of 4:07 in the prelims to qualify for the final and then proceeded to shatter that PR when he ran 4:00.86 and finished 2nd overall by a narrow margin.


The surprise isn’t that Torres is good, it’s that he got that good without any real indication that this was coming. His win at the D2 National Invite in the fall was good, but not great considering the competition. He won the RMAC mile title a few weeks ago, and that boosted his reputation some more, but it wasn’t the same RMAC field we’ve seen in prior seasons.


An All-American projection felt pretty strong all things considered, but running as fast as he did and finishing 2nd was likely not in many projections outside of his own.


Little by little, Torres had been putting together a breakout year and make incremental improvements. However, even without that progress, I don't think anyone expected the breakout result that we just saw from him.


5. Loic Scomparin, Rs. Freshman, Colorado Mines (+10 / 15)

Scomparin has one of the biggest jumps in our rankings after his very strong weekend performance. The redshirt freshman had some question marks surrounding him in terms of his experience (or lack thereof) on the biggest stage, but that apparently didn't faze him.


It’s fair to say that Scomparin answered most, if not all of, the questions we had in the span of 24 hours. He finished 3rd overall in the 5000 meters and ran 13:49 on day one and then came back to run 8:01 and finish 3rd yet again in the 3000 meters on day two.


That 13:49 mark speaks for itself, but finishing 3rd twice in your first two NCAA races ever? Now, that’s impressive, even if he hadn’t run the times that he did. Not only that, but it's not like these races were easy, either. He was facing what had to be the best D2 5k field ever and he still positioned himself for major success in that race.


Simply put, that was some unreal poise for Scomparin.


4. James Young, Rs. Senior, Academy of Art (Unranked)

We have to give Young a lot of credit here. He didn’t touch the track for a race until the middle of February and when he did, he ran a double, qualifying both himself and his DMR for the NCAA Championships.


Young moving up this far into our rankings boils down to two things: his lack of racing prior to the meet and this being a year where his mark of 4:05 was on the backend of qualifying times.


After easily qualifying for the mile final, Young was rather fresh after his DMR team had an "off" night which, in tur,n allowed him to focus all of his energy on the final.


And what a final it was.


Young out-kicked Torres to run a monster time of 4:00.40 and take home the mile crown in a thrilling race. It’s a lifetime best by four seconds and it makes you wonder what he could have done if his DMR team was remotely close to the leaders the night before.


We'd like to say more about Young, but it's hard to really say anything that you don't already know. We knew he was a top talent, but his limited results made it difficult to get a read on him coming into the NCAA Championships. That's what makes his national title so exciting.


3. Dennis Mbuta, Senior, Grand Valley State (+8 / 11)

Welcome back to the elite tier, Dennis Mbuta. The Grand Valley senior reassured us that he was the man to beat over 800 meters and did it in thrilling fashion. He stayed calm and ran a perfect race that gave him a new personal best by three-tenths of a second. It also gave him his first NCAA title, something that had eluded him until now.


He also clocked the second-fastest split on the DMR, running 2:58 which gives us an additional peek into where Mbuta’s fitness might actually be. He didn’t run a very good mile this season, but his recent 1:48 national title victory indicates that he’s in much better shape than the 4:09 that he ran earlier this season.


Mbuta's win isn’t much of a surprise based on his history, but his inconsistency this season also wasn't encouraging. He had a few surprising losses and didn't always post super fast times. Luckily, he peaked at the perfect moment and didn't let the inconsistency of his season stop him from winning a rare all-out, but slightly tactical, 800 meter race.


2. Isaac Harding, Senior, Grand Valley State (0 / 2)

We’ve gotta tip our hat to Harding after his performances at the NCAA Championships. His goal was clear from the gun: beat Christian Noble. That proved to be easier said than done as Harding gave everything he had and still came away unsuccessful.


Despite only having attended one NCAA meet as a D2 athlete (thus far), Harding will have one (or two) of the best championship performances that didn’t result in an NCAA title. His double of 13:48 (5k) and 8:00 (3k) is one of the fastest in NCAA meet history.


Simply put, he ran into the buzzsaw that is Christian Noble and that’s about it. Harding had the times and the D1 experience to take home titles in either event and truthfully, it’s not because he didn’t do enough. Noble was just able to do a little bit more.


We'll remember this season for what Christian Noble did, but Harding will need to be a part of the story when we look back at history.


1. Christian Noble, Senior, Lee (Tenn.) (0 / 1)

There is no debate and there are no questions. There are facts, and the facts support Christian Noble being the best runner in the country. I could tell you all that he has done this season, but it’s already apparent.


He rewrote the indoor record books. He took home the 5k and 3k crowns, something only one other athlete has done since the 3k was added to the NCAA meet. He took the best shot from everyone in the field and still came out on top.


Don’t expect the outdoor season to be any different either as Noble has already said that he’s going to try and take down multiple outdoor records. And frankly, we don't have a reason to doubt him.

 

ADDED

Tony Torres (Colorado Mesa)

James Young (Academy of Art)

Seb Anthony (Queens (N.C.))

Mason Strader (Pittsburg State)

Ian Johnson (Ashland)

Nathan Hood (CSU-Pueblo)


KICKED OFF

Caleb Futter (Grand Valley State)

Ahmed Sado (Adams State)

Vincent Workman (Colorado Mines)

Austin Nolan (Southern Indiana)

Jonathan Groendyk (Grand Valley State)

Dillon Powell (Colorado Mines)


JUST MISSED (in no particular order)

Josh Pierantoni (Colorado Christian)

Carson Bix (Adams State)

Connar Southard (Pittsburg State)

Caleb Futter (Grand Valley State)

Jonathan Specht (Western Colorado)

Austin Nolan (Southern Indiana)

Jonathan Groendyk (Grand Valley State)


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)

Wes Ferguson (Nebraska-Kearney)

Ahmed Sado (Adams State)

Vincent Workman (Colorado Mines)

Dillon Powell (Colorado Mines)

Jake Hall (Ashland)

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