25. Makena Morley, Junior, Colorado
One of the more underappreciated runners in the NCAA has to be Morley who was 8th at the national meet during cross country. With personal bests of 9:04 and 15:40, the Colorado distance stud is in a good position to potentially earn two All-American finishes this winter.
24. Paige Stoner, Senior, Syracuse
Unlike other distance stars in these rankings, Stoner has built up her resume through the steeplechase and 10,000 meters. Regardless, she is still a strong competitor in a conference that is home to some of the most talented distance runners in the nation (the ACC). After earning an All-American finish in the 5000 meters last winter, Stoner will look to build upon that result in March.
23. Jessica Pascoe, Junior, Florida
One of the biggest breakout stars in the NCAA this past fall was Florida's Jessica Pascoe. The Aussie ace went from being a decent team scorer to a top-tier front-runner in the span of a year. She recently ran a personal best of 15:34 in Boston to prove that she isn't a "one season wonder". Expect her to throw down some massive PR's this winter.
22. Nicole Hutchinson, Senior, Villanova
Nicole Hustinson may have some of the most underrated range in the NCAA. The Wildcat veteran has personal bests of 2:08, 2:48, 4:36, 9:09, and 15:46. Her unique mix of speed and endurance, paired with her experience, makes her an easy choice for a Top 25 spot.
21. Alicia Monson, Junior, Wisconsin
After a breakout cross country season, Monson has continued to show off her new level of fitness. Like Hutchinson, she has a long distance focus with a strong mile to complement her PR's. While she may lack the same mid-distance speed, Monson is a star in the making (if not already).
20. Elly Henes, Junior, NC State
You have to admire the consistency that Elly Henes brings to the table. After yet another All-American finish in the fall, Henes capitalized on her fitness to run a (converted) 15:34 at JDL Fast Track. In an era where women's collegiate distance running is at an all-time high, Henes continues to standout among the best.
19. Millie Paladino, Senior, Providence
The two-time All-American from Providence is a very solid performer when it comes to the mile and 3000 meters. Together, those two events require a difficult mix of speed and endurance, but Paladino has been able to find that balance. With a personal best of 4:31 in the mile (and 4:12 for 1500 meters), this senior could pull off some big upsets over the next two months.
18. Fiona O'Keeffe, Rs. Sophomore, Stanford
17. Christina Aragon, Rs. Sophomore, Stanford
The future of Stanford distance running looks bright with these two women leading the way. Both O'Keeffe and Aragon have already proven that they are massively talented and will likely prosper as they continue to develop their racing tactics. Their youth will give them ample opportunities to run fast and learn from veterans around them.
16. Charlotte Prouse, Junior, New Mexico
I am a big fan of Charlotte Prouse, the New Mexico junior who deserves more recognition than she's currently receiving. She just ran a huge personal best of 15:26 in December and was runner-up in the steeplechase at the national meet last spring. If she continues this upward trend of improvement, Prouse could enter the national title conversation as a sleeper pick.
15. Lilli Burdon, Rs. Junior, Washington
14. Katie Rainsberger, Rs. Sophomore, Washington
The former Ducks are continuing to thrive in Seattle. They both opened up their indoor seasons with strong mile performances and are currently sitting near the top of the NCAA leaderboard. Although they have had plenty of success in the mile, their reputation has been built in the 3k. Burdon owns a personal best of 8:59 for 3000 meters while Rainsberger was national leader in that event two years ago. Now that they have had a semester to adjust to their new college environment, expect this Husky duo to make some serious noise in 2019.
13. Dorcas Wasike, Rs. Sophomore, Louisville
Despite earning a runner-up finish for 10,000 meters last spring AND running a time of 15:25 for 5000 meters in December, Wasike still remains under the radar when discussing collegiate elites. She wins, produces strong times, continues to improve, and is able to contend with the best of the best in the NCAA. What's not to like?
12. Karisa Nelson, Senior, Samford
We'll admit, Nelson slipped from our minds when going through our draft. That will likely comeback to haunt us when you remember that she's a national champion in the mile. The only reason she's not ranked in our Top 10 is due to her absence throughout 2018 where she only competed once. While we may not like uncertainty when it comes to rankings, Nelson is a superstar when she's fully healthy.
11. Rachel Pocratsky, Senior, Virginia Tech
Pocratsky may be one of the most dynamic distance runners in the NCAA. She has phenomenal middle distance speed with personal bests of 2:02 (800), 2:41 (1000), and 4:34 (mile). When you tack on two All-American finishes and two ACC titles, it becomes very hard to ignore the Virginia Tech ace.
10. Sharon Lokedi, Senior, Kansas
9. Allie Ostrander, Junior, Boise State
It seems hard to mention one over the other. Ostrander has two national titles in the steeplechase and owns a monster PR of 8:54 for 3000 meters. Meanwhile, Lokedi is a national champion for 10,000 meters and also owns the NCAA meet record in that event. Although the Kansas Jayhawk just edged out Ostrander at Boston in December, Ostrander has been a bit more consistent among the elites in championship racing. Regardless, both of these women will be looking to add indoor national titles to their resumes in 2019.
8. Jazmine Fray, Senior, Texas A&M
How is it that a collegiate record holder is only ranked #8? It may seem like robbery, but it just goes to show how unbelievably deep and talented the NCAA is this year. Despite owning the collegiate record (2:00.69), Fray has yet to secure a national title. Still, her numerous All-American finishes and 2:43 personal best (for 1000 meters) shows that she has more than enough talent to win gold.
7. Erin Finn, Rs. Senior, Michigan
Erin Finn could go down as the best collegiate to never win a national title. While that may sound bittersweet, it's also a nod to the women who have come in and out of the NCAA over the past few years. Finn is one of the most experienced veterans in the country and is more than capable of handling herself on the national stage. If you're going to beat her, she'll make sure it's painful by establishing an early, aggressive pace. Watch out for Finn to rise about the rest of her competitors this winter.
6. Weini Kelati, Sophomore, New Mexico
One of the brightest young stars in the NCAA is Weini Kelati who has was able to match Ednah Kurgat throughout the 2018 cross country season. On the right day, she could very easily win a national title for 5000 meters. Who knows? If she's able to develop her closing speed, she could also be a national title favorite for 3000 meters. Still, the long distances are super crowded and she may not have the turnover to be the favorite in tactical championship races. For that reason, we opted to place her at #6.
5. Danae Rivers, Junior, Penn State
Prior to this past weekend, we might have placed Rivers closer to the #10 spot. Of course, no one expected her to run a collegiate record of 2:38.58 for 1000 meters just seven days ago. The first collegiate woman to ever break 2:40 for 1000 meters has now entered a new tier of fitness and seems to be proving to everyone that the sophomore to junior "jump" is real. Despite owning personal bests of 2:02 and 4:10 (1500), a national title will not be easy for Rivers to obtain. With individuals like Hull, Jones, Watson, and Fray dominating the 800 and mile distances, Rivers will have her work cut out for her come March.
4. Sammy Watson, Sophomore, Texas A&M
It's funny to think that earning a bronze medal in Watson's first National Championship as a freshman was considered a "learning experience" last winter. Even with ridiculous expectations, Watson came back during outdoors and secured her first national title in the 800 meters. With a year of experience under her belt, it's hard to think that she won't get even better and even more difficult to defeat. Is a collegiate record in her future? I wouldn't say it's out of the question...
3. Jessica Hull, Senior, Oregon
She's run under 2:05 for 800 meters (2:04), under 4:10 for 1500 meters (4:08), and under 9:00 for 3000 meters (8:58). After finishing 3rd at the cross country national meet this past fall, Hull has become one of the most well-rounded distance runners in the NCAA. The Oregon superstar earned her first national title last spring in the 1500 meters and will want to replicate that finish during indoors. To do so, she'll have to get past our #1 ranked runner.
2. Ednah Kurgat, Senior, New Mexico
Admittedly, her cross country season wasn't as strong as I was hoping for. Of course, any concerns or doubts about her fitness were put aside after she won the Boston Opener in December with a HUGE time of 15:14 for 5000 meters. She's won a national title before and she can certainly do it again. Kurgat may have shown that she was human this past cross country season, but she is still one of the most feared distance runners in the NCAA.
1. Dani Jones, Senior, Colorado
We could have a debate about the #1 spot all day, but Jones has proven to be a step above the rest. She was considered to be a "miler" entering the cross country season, but ended up walking away with a national title. Funny how those things happen, huh? With a plethora of championship experience, improved endurance, and a lethal finishing kick, Jones is the last person anyone in the NCAA wants to face right now.