Nuttycombe Men's Preview


Questions:

Ben Weisel

Commentary:

Ben Weisel, John Cusick, Michael Weidenbruch, Sam Ivanecky, and Garrett Zatlin


Going into one of the biggest races of the year, we talked to some of our contributors about what they are looking forward to at the Wisconsin Invite. This is a race where a heavy number of Kolas points will be won. It will also be our first look at many of the top runners and teams around the country. We'll be looking at who the favorites are, which dark horses we should watch, and who needs Kolas points the most...


With Justyn Knight graduating and Grant Fisher not competing, who are the favorites to win individually?

"There are plenty of names to choose from this deep field. The Northern Arizona duo of Matthew Baxter and Tyler Day, Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen, Wisconsin’s own Morgan McDonald, and Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse from Portland. All of these men bring plenty of star power.


After the seasons’ that Baxter and Day had last year, it’s hard to pick against them even with the plethora of talent competing in this field. Look for them to be in the front pack the whole way like they were last year. With no Justyn Knight, expect them to storm to the finish, 1-2 with Baxter edging Day."

- Ben Weisel


"I’m going with Tyler Day and honestly, I think he does it in a landslide. We know how Alabama will run and I see the NAU men just hanging behind them, waiting to pounce. Coach Smith always has his athletes ready to roll for the big meets and this weekend will be no exception."

- John Cusick


"Matthew Baxter and Tyler Day of NAU stand out as our #1 and #2. I am hoping to see Morgan McDonald running to kick off his season. If he is there, I think he cannot be counted out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the Alabama trio take it either."

- Michael Weidenbruch


"The top spot should be one of six men at this meet. There’s the Alabama duo of Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen, the NAU pair of Tyler Day and Matt Baxter, Joe Klecker of Colorado, and the hometown man Morgan McDonald of Wisconsin. All of these guys are All-Americans in XC and four of them were in the top 10 last fall. Klecker had a bad day at NCAA's last year, but after redshirting indoor and outdoor he went on to run 13:30. McDonald opted to redshirt the 2017 cross country season, but owns a PR of 13:15 (from last summer) and was 7th at Nationals in 2016. It’s hard seeing anyone else breaking into this group, but it’s early so anything can happen."

- Sam Ivanecky


"Baxter and Day will definitely be in the conversation. Those are two really comfortable picks and it's tough choose anyone else. If the pace is aggressive, I could also see the Alabama men and Roudolff-Levisse fighting for the win."

- Garrett Zatlin


Fact-or-Fiction: Northern Arizona will continue their dominance and win their third straight title at Wisconsin.

"Fact. Northern Arizona dominated their opener with Peter Lomong, Matthew Baxter, and Tyler Day leading the way. With Day and Baxter battling it out for the win like they did last year, NAU has the luxury of multiple low-sticks and a remaining top seven that could all finish in the top 25.


The most intriguing part of NAU is the uncertainty surrounding their top seven. Will we see the debut of Brody Hasty? Or will the embarrassment of riches force the top high school recruit this past summer to redshirt? Whatever the answer is, expect Northern Arizona to pick up the win on their way to another national title defense."

- Ben Weisel


"Easily 100% fact. I don’t see a team stopping the Lumberjacks this year. They are better than everyone else in nearly every aspect of their lineup."

- John Cusick


"Fact. At this point in the season, I have not seen a performance from any team that indicates an ability to take down NAU. BYU would be the ones who could do it, but they won’t be at Nuttycombe."

- Michael Weidenbruch

"Fact. They should be challenged by Portland and Iowa State, but NAU hasn’t had a bad meet in a long time...a really long time. It’s amazing how consistent they are every time they race and there’s no reason to think this weekend will be any different. They have Day and Baxter leading the way and I expect Lomong and Grivalja to run well. Their fifth man could be anyone, but with the depth on their roster, they don’t have to worry about someone not showing up. It’ll be interesting to see if Brodey Hasty races because he’s arguably the best true freshman this fall. However, the jury is still out on if he’ll actually compete. If he does race, he could be an All-American in November and that gives NAU a realistic scoring five in the top 40.

- Sam Ivanecky


"Fact. You almost want to say no just to change things up, but this team is just too good. They have all the firepower and depth a team could ever need. If someone in their top three has a bad day, then maybe NAU is vulnerable...but even that is a stretch."

- Garrett Zatlin

Which under-the-radar individual will make their name known at this meet?

"Edwin Kurgat, the transfer from UT-Martin, quickly fit in at Iowa State running 7:56 and 13:41. He is a big reason why I believe Iowa State can contend for a national title. An All-American in cross country last year, Kurgat has progressively become better and better throughout his career. In 2016 he ran 24:50 at Louisville, but ran 23:41 at the same race in 2017.


With fellow All-American Andrew Jordan and the rest of Iowa State squad to train with, Kurgat seems to be in a perfect situation to get the most out of his talent. While it is tough to improve on a 22nd place finish from Nationals, I firmly believe that Kurgat is going to continue his improvement and contend for a top 10 spot at Wisconsin."

- Ben Weisel


"I’m not sure he is under-the-radar, but I really like Oliver Hoare here. He’s really impressed me and has a 1500m title to his name already. I’d imagine his summer training has helped him progress as an 8k/10k runner as well."

- John Cusick


"Miguel Bautista of Texas Tech will make a bigger name for himself. He has solid credentials, but isn't discussed much."

- Michael Weidenbruch


"Addison DeHaven of Boise State. DeHaven had a major breakout race at NCAA's last year where he finished 31st, despite being only 44th at the Mountain regional two weeks prior. What's even crazier is that he was 110th at Nuttycombe last season. In 2018, I think he’ll prove NCAA's wasn’t a fluke and finish in the top 20 on Friday."

- Sam Ivanecky


"Gosh, there's so many. If I could pick five, I would. I like Curt Eckstein of Purdue. I think this is going to be his breakout year. He'll provide the Boilermakers with a strong 1-2 punch when paired with Jaret Carpenter. I'll take him or pretty much anyone in a Butler or Texas singlet."

- Garrett Zatlin


Portland made a big splash last year after finishing 2nd and defeating elite programs like Syracuse and Stanford. What dark horses or sleepers will outperform their rankings and compete for a top five finish?

"This team was not on most people’s radar at the beginning of the year, but Eastern Kentucky made a nice statement by dominating the Commodore Classic. They ran quick times on a brutal course and were led by newcomer James Sugira.


Sugira has the potential to be a top 10 runner at Wisconsin based off of his credentials which includes a 7th place finish in the 5k at the Commonwealth Games. Behind him is David Bascuñana (14:02), Jaime Romo (14:19), and Samuel Abascal (8:49 steeple) who have the talent to shine on the big stage. The lights could be too bright for this EKU team, but they might have the talent to finish in the top 10 at Wisconsin and surprise the rest of the NCAA."

- Ben Weisel


"I’m gonna put my money on Michigan. Yes, they lost to Michigan State by three points at the MSU Invitational, but they didn't race their top lineup. With a couple more weeks of training and maybe a few breakout performances, I think the Wolverines will rise to the occasion."

- John Cusick


"If Portland can still be considered a dark horse, I think they can certainly outperform their #5 ranking. I think Colorado State and NC State will outperform their rankings too."

- Michael Weidenbruch


"While I don’t consider Colorado to be underdogs, they come in ranked #7 in the TSR rankings and I think they could be a podium team this fall. The biggest question is who will be their fifth man? They have great talent up front with the All-American trio of Klecker, Dressel, and Herrera so firepower is certainly not an issue. I think Ryan Forsyth will be a solid fourth scorer and if I had to guess, Ethan Gonzales will be their fifth. They have a lot of younger guys who could step up, including high school star Gabe Fendel. I think this meet will give us a better idea of how good Colorado can be."

- Sam Ivanecky


"I think the Butler Bulldogs could make some serious noise if (and only if) Makepeace is healthy and he runs well. This team is brimming with potential. If Makepeace isn't where we'd expect him to be, then Charlotte will be my pick. They are super deep throughout their lineup and have solid low-sticks up front. Don't be surprised when they finish 9th at this meet."

- Garrett Zatlin


Many teams have not raced full squads, so what team are you most interested in seeing?

"Oklahoma State is a team that we really have no way of properly rating. Most of their top seven is made up of junior college transfers who have yet to run an NCAA race. If their JUCO guys are as good as they were at their respective community colleges, then Oklahoma State could make a statement this weekend. Their 13:53 redshirt freshman Isai Rodriguez should also give the team a boost.


I really want to see this team at full strength because I believe they have the most variability out of all of the teams at Wisconsin. It would not shock me to see them finish in the top 10, but it would also not be a surprise to see them closer to 20th. Hopefully we will know what kind of group the Cowboys have after this weekend."

- Ben Weisel


"This could be a cop-out (and it certainly feels like one), but I am excited to see what the Colorado men do. I wrote about them earlier in the summer and how I really believe that they are a team capable of winning the national title if all things go smoothly. I'd love to see them back that comment up this weekend."

- John Cusick


"Wisconsin with McDonald, NAU in full force, and Texas."

- Michael Weidenbruch


"The easy answer is Alabama given they bring back their big three and added two more Kenyans this summer. There’s limited information on the two new additions, but if their talent is similar to the current Kenyan trio then Alabama could be really good this year (like, top three at NCAA's good). This is a program who finished 14th at Nationals last fall with their fourth and fifth runners placing 188th and 191st. If their two new runners finished even 100th and 101st, the Tide would have been 5th last fall."

- Sam Ivanecky


"How good can Indiana be with Veatch in their lineup? Mau looked solid in his season opener and the Hooisers now have two supporting scorers in Dustin Horter and Reece Jordan (both freshmen). If their depth has developed enough, this could be a very interesting team."

- Garrett Zatlin


Which team needs to win Kolas points the most in order to qualify for nationals?

"I’m going to go a little off the radar and say Bradley University. This team has national qualifying aspirations, and this is the perfect opportunity for them to pick up some valuable Kolas points. The Midwest is stacked at the top with Iowa State and Oklahoma State, so Bradley will likely need points to qualify for Nationals.


With Illinois showing some vulnerability in the backend of their lineup, a 3rd place regional finish on Bradley's home course is very possible which makes Kolas points even more important. Led by Mike Ward (13:54) who redshirted the 2017 cross country season and Jake Hoffert (an individual national qualifier last year), look for Bradley to make a splash at Wisconsin and help their chances of qualifying for NCAA's."

- Ben Weisel


"I think Charlotte needs the points. I know we have them ranked 20th in our most recent rankings, but in a weaker conference and super deep region, they have to perform at these big meets. In order to see them in November, we’ll have to see a strong performance from the 49ers here."

- John Cusick


"Georgetown should be looking for some points. They look like they should be able to make it out of the Mid-Atlantic, but they fell apart last year and missed it."

- Michael Weidenbruch


"The Bradley men. They’re ranked 4th in the Midwest region right now (Coaches Poll) behind Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Minnesota. I think they’re good enough to finish 3rd in their region, but they’ll still need points to make it out. They only race at Nuttycombe and their home meet (the Bradley Pink Classic). If they're going to score Kolas points, now is the time to do it."

- Sam Ivanecky


"Pretty much anyone in the Southeast region which would be Charlotte, Eastern Kentucky, and NC State in this case. There are at least six teams capable of qualifying for NCAA's out of the Southeast this year. If someone has a bad race at regionals, they better hope that they have enough points to get an at-large bid. If you finish 6th in this region and only have two points, you're probably not going back to Wisconsin."

- Garrett Zatlin

Overall, give us your prediction for the top 5 team and individual results.

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Ben Weisel

Individuals

1. Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona)

2. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona)

3. Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin)

4. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama)

5. James Sugira (Eastern Kentucky)


Teams

1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

2. Iowa State Cyclones

3. Portland Pilots

4. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Colorado Buffaloes

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John Cusick

Individuals

1. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona)

2. Matt Baxter (Northern Arizona)

3. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama)

4. Joe Klecker (Colorado)

5. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland)


Teams

1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

3. Colorado Buffaloes

4. Michigan Wolverines

5. Michigan State Spartans

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Michael Weidenbruch

Teams

1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

2. Portland Pilots

3. Iowa State Cyclones

4. Colorado Buffaloes

5. Wisconsin Badgers


Individuals 1. Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona)

2. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona)

3. Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin)

4. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama)

5. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland)

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Sam Ivanecky

Teams

1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

2. Portland Pilots

3. Colorado Buffaloes

4. Iowa State Cyclones

5. Wisconsin Badgers


Individuals

1. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona)

2. Vincent Kiprop (Alabama)

3. Joe Klecker (Colorado)

4. Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin)

5. Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona)

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Garrett Zatlin

Teams

1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

2. Colorado Buffaloes

3. Portland Pilots

4. Iowa State Cyclones

5. Texas Longhorns


Individuals

1. Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona)

2. Emmanuel Roudolff-Levisse (Portland)

3. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona)

4. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama)

5. Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin)