Dustin Nading: Bigger Gain for Washington or Bigger Loss for W. Oregon?
One of the more overlooked transfers of the past few months has been the transfer of a D2 national champion to a PAC-12 powerhouse. I am, of course, talking about Dustin Nading and his recent move to join the Washington Huskies.
At first glance, the move is surprising. Nading had significant success during his time at Western Oregon, dropping his 1500 meter PR to a mark of 3:45 (and 4:04 for the mile) as well as running 8:10 for 3000 meters. He won the D2 indoor national title in the mile (as well as the DMR) back in 2018 and was runner-up to fellow teammate David Ribich the following spring in the 1500 meters.
However, Nading slowly fell off our radar throughout 2019, failing to make a single appearance on the grass or track over the last year. This likely stemmed from the injury he sustained at the 2018 D2 XC National Championships.
After a year of no performances and plenty of time to ponder his future, the move to Washington makes sense. Nading has already reached the top-ranks of the D2 scene and was likely attracted by a pitch from Andy Powell which probably goes something along the lines of "I can make you a sub-four minute miler".
And for what it's worth, former teammate David Ribich now trains in Seattle with the Brooks Beasts, a professional training group that is very familiar with the Washington program.
Western Oregon will certainly be hurting from losing Nading, specifically on the track. The team recently brought in Trinidad State standout Derek Holdsworth who has been electric in the 800 and 1500 meter distances, owning personal bests of 1:47 (spring of 2016, unattached) and 3:46. Not only that, but his indoor 1000 meter PR of 2:22 is an NJCCA record.
So why is Holdsworth important in this conversation?
Well, pairing Holdsworth with Nading would have made this group unfathomably strong in a distance medley relay, an event the Wolves had major success in when David Ribich was still in the collegiate circuit. Those two, in addition to 4:08 miler Justin Crosswhite, would have been absolutely monstrous on the track, bringing Western Oregon back to national relevancy after a year of quiet performances.
The Wolves can (and will be) competitive in 2020. Crosswhite is still an underrated talent and Holdsworth can be still be in the national title conversation for the 800 meters this year (or maybe even the mile/1500 distances). Heck, the DMR national title isn't totally out of the conversation for them either.
Still, not having an established, title-winning veteran on the roster is a tough pill to swallow. Nading's value as a scorer in cross country will also be missed.
As far as Washington goes, Nading's arrival is notable, but it's not necessarily ground-breaking. While the former Western Oregon ace may actually be one of the better tacticians on this roster, he has not yet run under the four minute barrier like some of the current Huskies have (Stanovsek, Ritz, Hull, and Tanner). This isn't a knock on Nading, but it's important to put in perspective just how strong Washington's depth chart already was.
We shouldn't blame Nading for wanting to advance his career past what Western Oregon had to offer. David Ribich is an anomaly as far as D2 elites go and Andy Powell likely gives Nading the best chance to reach that same level.
In the end, both teams will/would have survived without Nading, but Western Oregon had so much more to gain by keeping him around for another year.
Final Verdict: Bigger Loss for Western Oregon
Emmanuel Cheboson: Bigger Gain for Iowa St. or Bigger Loss for Louisville?
Earlier today, Iowa State announced that Emmanuel Cheboson would be joining the team. The former Louisville ace was a stud in the longer distances, securing a personal best of 28:42 for 10,000 meters and acting as a very legitimate (albeit, inconsistent) threat to other top talents on the cross country course. This past fall, he beat out Indiana's Ben Veatch at the Commodore Classic to finish 4th overall.
Admittedly, Cheboson has struggled to consecutively string together strong performances over the past year. He doesn't always peak at the right time and his inability to race tactically has proven to be a liability. That, however, is something that can be remedied.
When we look at this transfer loss for Louisville, it's safe to say that Cheboson's departure from the program must have hurt. However, in the big picture, it wasn't going to make much of a difference. Ever since the graduation of top Kenyan talents in 2015 and 2016, the Cardinals have been unable to amass that same level of talent. Instead, they have found themselves in the bottom-half of the ACC.
Cheboson, as valuable and as talented as he is, wasn't going to make Louisville competitive all on his own.
But Iowa State? Well, that's a different story.
The Cyclones, after earning a 4th place podium finish at the 2019 NCAA XC Championships this past fall, will be without top scorers such as Edwin Kurgat, Addison DeHaven, and David Too in 2020. Luckily for Iowa State, they still have a very solid group that includes Chad Johnson, Mitchell Day, Milo Greder, and a handful of young, still-developing talents.
What Iowa State doesn't have in that group, is someone who has shown that they can bring the same level of scoring potency and potential to the cross country course that Cheboson has. That's not to say that one of these guys can't be a low-sticks (because they most certainly can), but Cheboson's elite 10k PR and top finishes make him a realistic All-American candidate for 2020.
Cheboson's transfer from Louisville won't make up for the entire loss of Edwin Kurgat and others, but he will replace at least some of that missing scoring potency if he is able to have his best performances in the postseason.
Final Verdict: Bigger Gain for Iowa State
Amon Kemboi: Bigger Gain for Arkansas or Bigger Loss for Campbell?
There may not have been a transfer as talented as Amon Kemboi in 2019. Sure, others may have had greater name recognition, but as far as accolades and personal bests are concerned, Kemboi is the bigger name.
It's rare to see someone at the peak of their performances switching programs. When you run 7:44 for 3000 meters, you typically don't venture far from what you've been doing. Yet, Amon Kemboi had different plans and has instead decided to join the Arkansas Razorbacks. In doing so, he gives the men from Fayetteville a massive boost in scoring potency.
But let's start with his former team: Campbell.
Despite what the results say, the Camels showed some promise in the fall of 2019. They brought in an elite low-stick in Athanas Kioko and had a few promising results from freshman Godwin Kimutai. Between those two and Kemboi, Campbell had the best top three in the Southeast region this past cross country season (and it wasn't really close).
A severe lack of depth ended up being the downfall for Campbell last season, but generally speaking, they had 60% of a nationally relevant squad. With Kemboi, Kioko, and Kimutai set to return in 2020, all Coach Kelly needed to do was secure another top Kenyan talent (like he seemingly does every year) in order to put the Camels in the national qualifying conversation.
Unfortunately for the men from Buies Creek, North Carolina, the loss of superstar Amon Kemboi will likely put those national qualifying aspirations on hold for the time being.
As for Arkansas, the addition of Kemboi is arguably just as important.
When paired with Gilbert Boit, you're looking at Arkansas potentially taking the top two spots in the 3000 meters and 5000 meters at the SEC Championships during indoors and the top two spots in the 5000 meters and 10,000 meters at the SEC Championships during outdoors.
Yes, it helps that the Alabama duo is no longer there, but it seems like Kemboi and Boit will be the best true long distance runners in the conference this winter and spring (if Kemboi runs in both seasons, which is not a given).
And then we come to cross country where Kemboi's impact will be felt the most.
The Razorback men struggled a bit this past fall, finishing 30th at NCAA's and 3rd at SEC's (a conference that they have historically dominated). However, the team didn't have the services of low-stick Gilbert Boit who was sidelined after taking a redshirt season. With Boit set to return to the Arkansas lineup in 2020, this group was expected to be much more competitive.
But now the team will also have Amon Kemboi who will offer even more firepower than what Arkansas could have possibly developed in a single year.
Of course, it's important that we don't get too overly excited about what Arkansas could look like in 2020. Matt Young will be a very nice option at the #3 scoring spot and the rest of the lineup seems deep enough to keep Arkansas competitive. However, they still need more scoring potency if they want to be battling with the best teams in the country next fall.
Kemboi, as good as he is, will not automatically do that for them.
In the end, it's all about what you value more here in this situation. Kemboi's addition to the Arkansas roster will make the team nationally relevant instead of just national qualifiers. Kemboi's departure from Campbell, however, takes away the possibility of a breakout cross country season for the Camels in 2020.
In the end, we'll go with Arkansas having the bigger gain in this situation, but that thought process could change 30 minutes after this is published.
Final Verdict: Bigger Gain for Arkansas