First Thoughts: Nationals (Men)

Updated: Nov 18, 2018

McDonald wins, Fisher gets caught in traffic

Morgan McDonald completed what may be one of the more heart warming storylines of the season. The Badger veteran gave Coach Mick Byrne his first ever individual national champion after years of waiting, training, and redshirts. To earn the national title on your home course and in front of the home crowd has to produce a feeling that very few people have ever experienced.

In the final moments of the race, I thought Fisher was going to pull away for the win. He was patiently waiting in the top pack and conserving energy. He never worked harder than he had to.

However, in the final straightaway, Fisher was caught in a tactical error. As McDonald tried to pull away, Fisher attempted to sneak up on his right shoulder before Kurgat put in a surge to block Fisher's attempt. This forced the Stanford senior to go around McDonald's other shoulder and kick from there. Despite his efforts, there wasn't enough time for Fisher to correct his mistake as McDonald was able to barely hold him off for the win.

Regardless of what happened, the individual race proved to be as tight and as exciting as we could have hoped.

Rodriguez, Templeton standout as individual stars

How about these two? Isai Rodriguez didn't make his season debut until Artuo Barrios Invite and later cruised through the BIG 12 and Midwest Championships. He had impressive finishes throughout the entire postseason and even challenged Edwin Kurgat on a few occasions. However, in a relatively weak conference and region, it was difficult to gauge just how good this redshirt freshman was...until today. He ran an aggressive, yet incredibly smart race to finish 4th at the National Championships. For someone so young, his poise was super impressive.

Aaron Templeton may have run one of the smartest races of the weekend. He quietly sat on the outside of the top group and responded to moves without expending more energy than he needed to. After his 4th place finish in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race, I think some people questioned if this was just a great breakout race, or if he could actually pull off a repeat performance. Sure enough, Templeton silenced the doubters and earned a 5th place finish to establish himself as one of Furman's greatest distance runners ever.

There may not be a team with more heart than Colorado State

At the 2017 National Championships, Colorado State earned a 9th place finish despite their scoring leader (Jerrell Mock) falling out of the Rams top five in the last mile of the race. Entering this weekend, Colorado State was in a similar situation. Top ace Cole Rockhold had sustained an injury before regionals and was inactive for the rest of the postseason.

That, however, didn't phase Coach Siemers squad who once again finished 9th at the 2018 National Championships. Eric Hamer's 18th place finish was a huge boost in the scoring while Carson Hume finished only one spot away from being an All-American (41st).

With the rest of their scorers finishing in the top 100 team spots, Colorado State proved that they can still be one of the best teams in the NCAA even when they're at a (supposed) disadvantage.

Don't worry about Purdue, they'll be back

Coming into this year, I had my eye on the Boilermakers. The Carpenter/Eckstein duo had the potential to be very dangerous in terms of scoring, and the rest of the lineup showed plenty of promise. With the addition of Brody Smith, this team was capable of moving up the rankings.

As expected, the Boilermakers posted solid performance after solid performance throughout the season. They looked like a complete team with a little extra swagger and they seemed to have an edge that other top programs don't always have.

Unfortunately for them, Purdue struggled quite a bit at the National Championships, finishing 29th as a team. To be blunt, no one had a good day. In fact, no one finished among the top 100 individuals.

Of course, it is no surprise that a team made up of underclassmen who lack experience on the national stage had a rough performance. Luckily, all five of these scorers (six of their top seven) return in 2019. By then, the Boilermakers will be far more experienced and hungry to show their true potential.

Panic and pressure can still produce success

In the matter of only a few months, Oregon lost their head coach, top cross country runner, top miler, the two best recruits in the nation, a recent Penn State transfer, and Matthew Maton (who was pretty much done before the summer began). With most of the roster being wiped out, the Ducks looked vulnerable, a position we had never seen them in before.

Yet, even with all of the adversity, they were able to collect the rest of their roster pieces and construct a competitive lineup. Oregon was still able to end the season with a 15th place finish at Nationals. It wasn't always pretty, but they kept it together and made the best out of a bad situation.

How about NC State? They had a very average 16th place finish at Nuttycombe before crumbling at Pre-Nationals where they finished 14th overall. Just when you thought that their season was done, the Wolfpack rallied to beat Virginia at ACC's, win the Southeast regional title, and finish 11th at Nationals. I'm not sure how, but this team seemingly turned their season around overnight.

Throughout the summer, Oklahoma State was overwhelmed with a Mass Exodus of runners who opted to transfer out of the program. Some of those transfers were expected to be top scorers in the Oklahoma State lineup, but they chose to run elsewhere.

Of course, Coach Dave Smith recognized that his team was in need of scoring help. He brought in a handful of JUCO transfers and developed the young talent who decided to stay with team. In the end, Oklahoma State finished 13th at Nationals, a massive improvement from last year's 29th place finish.