#1 Sam Chelanga (Liberty ‘11)
#16 Dhruvil Patel (North Central ‘19)
Sam Chelanga reign of dominance in the NCAA was nothing short of impressive. He took home a staggering 14 All-American honors, including four national titles; three on the track, one on the grass. What’s most impressive, though, has got to be his 10k national record of 27:08 which was set in 2010. Chelanga also ranks NCAA #7 all-time in the indoor 5k, boasting a collegiate best of 13:19. Between the records and national titles, the former Liberty star has done it all.
Under the helm of renowned coach Al Carius, Dhruvil Patel rose to the upper echelons of D3 in quite the fashion. He took home six titles on the national stage, including one in cross country, two in the 10k (2018-2019), two in the indoor 5k (2018-2019), and one in the outdoor 5k (2019). All of those titles showed that his tactics on the national stage were very impressive when it came down to the clutch moments. Additionally, he set the D3 national record in the outdoor 5000 meters (running 13:51) and is also ranked at NCAA #3 all-time (in D3) for the 10,000 meters with a mark of 28:50. Patel is one of the greatest division three runners to ever come through the NCAA.
#8 Edward Kemboi (Iowa State '15)
#9 Mac Fleet (Oregon '14)
Like the #4 seed in this same region, Edward Kemboi was a national champion during both the indoor and outdoor seasons of his senior year. He was able to capture the 800 meter national titles at the indoor and outdoor National Championships in 2015 and was able to beat out TSR #4 seed Clayton Murphy in both competitions.
One of his most impressive victories came in 2013 when Kemboi was just a sophomore. At the Armory Collegiate Invitational, Kemboi ran to a blistering 1000 meter PR of 2:21.89 and crushed the entire field winning by over two seconds. As a predominant middle distance track runner, Kemboi also showed some strength on the cross country course, having graduated with a 23:44 PR over 8000 meters.
One of the University of Oregon’s most famous runners, Mac Fleet showed why the Ducks are historically one of the best programs ever. One of Fleet’s best moments was taking the 1500 meter national title at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships in front of the home crowd in Eugene. That was Fleet's second national title after winning the mile national title in the spring of 2013 over the likes of Sam McEntee, Riley Masters, Andrew Bayer and Ryan Hill (to name a few).
Fleet's consistency is an overlooked an aspect of his career. He finished his career at Oregon having gone under 3:45 for 1500 meters 11 separate times with a PR of 3:39. Fleet also dipped under the four minute mile barrier a total of five separate times, ending with a collegiate PR of 3:57. An eight-time national qualifier between cross country and track, Fleet was one of the better milers of his era.
#5 Eric Jenkins (Northeastern / Oregon ’15)
#12 Josh Rohatinsky (BYU ‘07)
One of the more underappreciated Oregon alum, Eric Jenkins had a terrific collegiate career that included two NCAA titles and a handful of runner-up finishes. Going up against Cheserek, the former Duck won the 3k and 5k national titles at the 2015 NCAA Indoor Championships. In that same academic year, he also finished 2nd in the 2014 NCAA Cross Country Championship and 2nd in both the 5000 meters and the 10,000 meters at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Throw in Jenkins’ collegiate best of 13:18 that he ran while he at Northeastern (which is an NCAA #8 all-time mark in the outdoor 5k) and he has a very well-rounded résumé.
An underrated runner, Josh Rohatinsky put together a very impressive 2006-2007 season for the Cougars. He took home his only NCAA title in the fall as he beat top runners on this list such as Lopez Lomong and Galen Rupp. He would go on to run 13:25 and 27:55 in the 5k and 10k during the spring of 2007. He finished as an All-American in the 10k, finishing 8th at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
#4 Clayton Murphy (Akron '16)
#13 Stephen Sambu (Arizona '12)
Former Akron Zip Clayton Murphy earns himself a top four regional seeding in our bracket because of his strong collegiate career in the mid-2010’s. During his time at Akron, Murphy was able to dip under 1:50 for 800 meters a whopping 18 times, graduating with a collegiate PR of 1:46.13.
In every race he competed in between February 5th and June 11th during his senior season, Murphy was unbeaten in all individual races that were raced as finals. Included in this streak were two massive wins: the 800 meters at the NCAA Indoor Championships as well as the 1500 meters at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (which resulted in a new collegiate PR of 3:36). These two wins especially solidified Murphy’s standing as a dominant collegiate athlete who was able to succeed from a smaller university.
Stephen Sambu’s NCAA career lasted only two years, but he still managed to earn himself eight All-American honors. In fact, he might be the most impressive NCAA distance runner to never win an NCAA title. Sambu earned two NCAA cross country runner-up finishes in two attempts. He also holds the NCAA #2 all-time 5k mark in indoor history with his 13:13.74, behind only teammate Lawi Lalang. Sambu also holds the NCAA #5 all-time 10k mark of 27:28.64.
Sambu’s best NCAA track finish was a runner-up finish in the 2012 10k which he narrowly lost to Cam Levins. Only Stephen Sambu and Henry Rono are listed as top 10 NCAA performers in both the 5k and 10k.
#6 Dathan Ritzenhein (Colorado ‘04)
#11 Ryan Hall (Stanford ’05)
One of the members of the famed trifecta consisting of Dathan Ritzenhein, Hall and Webb, Ritzenhein was the big winner at the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships, out-kicking Ryan Hall of Stanford. Additionally, he has the 10,000 school meter record at Colorado with a time of 27:38 which is NCAA #11 all-time.
Even though he only competed at Colorado for two years, Ritz walked away from Boulder with four All-American honors. His next best performance came in the 2004 outdoor 5000 meter race where he finished as the runner-up to Robert Cheseret of Arizona.
The second runner of the famed high school distance stars (Ritzenhein, Hall and Webb), Ryan Hall won the 2005 outdoor national title in the 5000 meters. This was the highlight of his collegiate career as much of it was filled with injuries. Still, Hall overcame injuries and left Palo Alto with a 5k personal best of 13:22. He also helped the Cardinal win the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships by finishing as the runner-up to Ritzenhein which eventually gave him PAC-10 Cross Country Athlete of the Year.
#3 Simon Bairu (Wisconsin ’05)
#14 David Ribich (Western Oregon ’18)
Simon Bairu joined an exclusive group when he won back-to-back NCAA Cross Country Championships in 2004 and 2005. He is one of only a handful of names consisting of Gerry Lindgren, Steve Prefontaine, Edward Cheserek and Henry Rono to win in consecutive years. Bairu helped the Badgers win a total of 10 BIG 10 Championships (four XC, three indoor, three outdoor) during his time in Madison.
However, the crowning achievement was the 2005 cross country team title after Wisconsin finished 2nd in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Additionally, he was 3rd on the national stage twice in the 10k (in 2004 and 2006). He would later reconnect with his Badger teammates in Portland, Oregon when he ran for the Bowerman Track Club under his former coach Jerry Schumacher.
Enterprise, Oregon native David Ribich truly dominated the D2 scene over his junior and senior years. He won back-to-back 1500 meter titles in 2017 and 2018 while helping the Wolves sweep the DMR titles in the same years.
The DMR title in 2017 was particularly impressive since Ribich leaned at just the right time as Western Oregon won by .001 seconds. Ribich graduated from WOU with a 1500 meter best of 3:37, a D2 national record (he finished 7th in the same race that Josh Kerr set the NCAA 1500 meter record).
Ribich also owned collegiate personal bests of 1:48 (800) and 7:50 (3k), establishing himself as one of the greatest distance runners in D2 history.
#7 Emmanuel Korir (UTEP ’17)
#10 Nick Willis (Michigan ’05)
Even though Emmanuel Korir was only in El Paso for a single year, he made his presence known. He set a new 600 meter world record in Albuquerque at 5000 feet with a time of 1:14.97. The Kenyan also won both the indoor and outdoor national titles in the 800 meters with times of 1:47 and 1:45, respectively. Besides the 600 meter effort during indoors, Korir’s 400 meter performances of 44.53 seconds and his 800 meter time of 1:43.73 outdoors (NCAA #3 all-time) solidified him as one of the greatest collegiate middle distance runners ever.
One of the great milers to come out of Big Blue, Nick Willis finished his Michigan career with seven All-American honors. He owns two school records in the indoor 3k (7:44.9, NCAA #10 all-time) and the outdoor 5000 meters (13:27.54).
In 2005, Willis won the indoor mile national title and helped the Wolverines set a world record (at the time) in the DMR at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships. Other notable performances includes his runner-up finish in the 3000 meters at the 2014 indoor national meet as well as his 3rd place finish in the 5000 meters at the 2005 outdoor national meet.
#2 Galen Rupp (Oregon '09)
#15 Edwin Kurgat (TN-Martin / Iowa State '21)
Galen Rupp’s college career began with his 2005 outdoor season after taking the first two semesters off. Rupp set US Junior 10k and 3k national records during that 2005 season in addition to a 2nd place finish in the 10k at NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Through a number of up and down seasons due to injury, Rupp continued to earn multiple All-American finishes each year. In 2007, Rupp set the American Collegiate Record in the 10k with a 27:33 and later qualified for the 2007 IAAF Championships. Rupp also qualified for the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Rupp finally won his first NCAA title in cross country in 2008. Backing that up, Rupp won a historic 5k/3k/DMR indoor triple at the 2009 Indoor National Championships as well as the 10k/5k double at the 2009 Outdoor National Championships.
Rupp won the first-ever Bowerman Award in 2009 and is one of only two men’s distance runners to win that award in it’s history. Rupp closed out his career with five individual titles, 14 All-American honors, a 27:33 10k collegiate best and an American Collegiate Record in the indoor 5k of 13:18 (which was recently broken by Tyler Day this past winter).
Although Edwin Kurgat’s senior season was cut short, it would be remiss of us to leave him out of our bracket. Across all three seasons of competition, he was a BIG 12 champion eight times and finished in the top three a handful of other times as well.
In his three performances at the NCAA D1 XC Championships, Kurgat finished 21st, 3rd and 1st in 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively. In December of 2019, he followed up his national title with a 5k PR of 13:24 a mere two weeks after he won the NCAA XC Championships.
Kurgat has current personal bests of of 3:58 (mile), 7:49 (3k) and 13:24 (5k). He is expected to return to Iowa State next spring.