Men's XC Top 25: Week 11 - FINAL (11/19)


KEY

(Unranked)Was not ranked the week before.


(#/#)

First number indicates how much the team has moved in the rankings.

The second number indicates where that team was ranked the week before.

25. Princeton Tigers (Unranked)

We doubted and criticized this team throughout the entire season. They didn't race any legitimate competition during the regular season and risked going all-in on earning an automatic qualifier without any Kolas points. Of course, the Tigers would eventually cruise through the postseason, winning both the Ivy League and Mid-Atlantic titles. They ended their season with a 22nd place finish at Nationals.


There may not have been a team that was more uneventful than Princeton...and that's exactly why they're ranked. They kept their head down, went to work, and ignored the critics. Consistency and clutch postseason performances are valuable aspects of any program. For that reason, they earn the #25 spot in our rankings.


24. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (Unranked)

Southern Utah earned a lot of my respect this season. After losing Mike Tate and Matthew Wright to graduation, the coaching staff also opted to redshirt Kasey Knevelbaard and Josh Collins. With so many top scorers no longer in the picture, it was hard to imagine that the Thunderbirds could stay competitive in 2018.


Naturally, Southern Utah made us look foolish (ok, just me). Aidan Reed and Christian Ricketts were a strong 1-2 punch while Nate Osterstock became a solid #3. There was plenty of inconsistency with this team throughout the season, but after a 21st place finish at Nationals, I think they warrant a #24 ranking (ironically, the same ranking they entered the season with).


23. UCLA Bruins (-1 / 22)

I know they didn't race at Nationals, but this was a talented group that beat a handful of respectable teams throughout the season (i.e. Notre Dame, Air Force, Purdue, Indiana). Expect them to be national contenders in 2019 when Robert Brandt returns to the lineup.


22. Michigan Wolverines (-2 / 20)

I know they finished 19th, but the teams ranked ahead of them were simply better than they were for most of the 2018 season. Regardless, I really liked what I saw from this group. They were young, inexperienced, and lacked a true low-stick for most of the season, but still achieved some strong results. The Wolverines relied on pack-running which led to season highlights such as placing 14th at Nuttycombe and 3rd in the Great Lakes region. With John Aho securing an All-American finish and the entire top seven returning in 2019, there is a lot of potential for this squad a year from now.


21. Indiana Hoosiers (0 / 21)

When you consider that they didn't have Ben Veatch this season, you have to be satisfied with an 18th place finish at Nationals. Kyle Mau stepped up to become a top scoring low-stick while freshman Dustin Horter provided some stability at the #2 spot. At Nationals, Mau broke off to finish 49th while Horter, Michalski, Jha, and Millar all finished together to take spots 129-130-133-136 (104-105-108-110 in team standings). With Veatch likely returning in 2019, this squad will become far more dangerous.


20. Ole Miss Rebels (-1 / 19)

Yes, they finished 17th at NCAA's, but I think it's a fair to say that Air Force, Syracuse, and Purdue were slightly better than the Rebels throughout 2018. Still, it had to be an exciting season for this Ole Miss roster. They won their first-ever SEC title with a group full of youngsters and new talent. Waleed Suliman also finished 36th at NCAA's to become an All-American and establish himself as a true low-stick for his team.


Six of these men return in 2019. Of those six, five are underclassmen (freshmen or sophomores). The future is very bright for Coach Vanhoy's group.


19. Air Force Falcons (-5 / 14)

It was an up and down season for an Air Force team who could never find their rhythm. They had a pair of breakout scorers in Nathan Thomas and Trevor Siniscalchi, but they struggled to have everyone run their best on the same day. Regardless, this was another solid season for the Falcons who continue to stay under the radar as one of the top cross country teams in the NCAA.


18. Syracuse Orange (-7 / 11)

There's no denying that Syracuse is still one of the top teams in the NCAA, but it felt like they continuously went backwards as the season progressed. They easily won the Battle in Beantown over Washington before losing to the Huskies (and BYU) at Pre-Nats. Fast forward to ACC's, and they lost the conference title to Notre Dame. After cruising through the Northeast Regional Championships, the Orange struggled at Nationals, finishing 26th overall.


It's tough to say what exactly went wrong, but it's tough to match expectations after losing Knight, Bennie, and Germano. Luckily for Syracuse, they'll return their entire squad in 2019.


17. Purdue Boilermakers (-4 / 13)

Let's not make this more than it really is. Purdue simply had a bad day and that shouldn't take away from their excellent season. Finishing 29th as a team at Nationals should be more of a learning experience for a program that will return six of their top seven in 2019.


16. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (0 / 16)

For most of the season, Eastern Kentucky has been ranked near or around the #16 spot. After a 16th place finish at Nationals, that won't be changing. The emergence of James Sugira as a low-stick has given this team a huge boost against some of the nation's best programs. The veterans who were scattered throughout the lineup gave this team some stability in the scoring which allowed Eastern Kentucky to stay competitive on the national stage. They'll lose a handful of these men for the 2019 season, but I have no doubt that EKU will rebound by October of next year.


15. Oklahoma State Cowboys (+9 / 24)

After a pair of losses to Bradley and Tulsa at the Midwest Regional Championships, I questioned if this squad would be able to handle the big stage in Madison, Wisconsin. Of course, I didn't expect Isai Rodriguez to finish 4th overall with Ashenafi Hatte placing 27th. They haven't always looked great, but a 13th place finish at Nationals makes this team one of the best in the NCAA.


14. Oregon Ducks (-2 / 12)

It was a respectable, but uneventful season for the Oregon Ducks. They lost so many pieces of their roster in the summer, but they rebounded and kept things competitive. A 15th place finish at Nationals seems about right for them.


13. Wyoming Cowboys (+4 / 17)

In a year, Wyoming went from being an unexciting, average Mountain region team to 12th at the National Championships. There is a lot to be proud of if you're the Wyoming Cowboys. The transfer of Paul Roberts was huge, but he wasn't the main reason why this team was successful. The rise of Christopher Henry and Harry Ewing made Wyoming a threat to some of the top teams in the nation.


12. NC State Wolfpack (+3 / 15)

From 14th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race to 11th at Nationals. I'm not sure how, but the NC State Wolfpack pulled off a phenomenal turn around. At Nationals, they finished 11th overall and were led by Ian Shanklin who finished 54th overall. The rest of the squad displayed some of the best pack-running I have ever seen, taking spots 88-89-96-98 to close out the scoring. In the team standings, those finishes were 70-71-77-79.


11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-1 / 10)

I have no idea what Coach Sparks and Coach Carlson did with this squad, but in just one year, they turned a very average ACC team into one of the best programs in the country. The Fighting Irish went from being 14th in their region one year ago, to now 14th in the nation one year later. Yared Nuguse is a legitimate leader while freshman Danny Kilrea has emerged as another low-stick for this group. With a handful of elite talent entering the program, don't expect Notre Dame to leave the top of the rankings any time soon.


10. Colorado State Rams (+8 / 18)

Graduate Jerrell Mock and Grant Fischer? No problem. Lose Cole Rockhold to injury? Still not an issue. Despite not having their top scorers, Colorado State walked away with a huge 9th place finish at the national meet thanks to the front scoring duo of Eric Hamer (18th) and Carson Hume (41st). The rest of their lineup stayed composed with five men in the top 100 team scoring spots. Props to Coach Siemers and his staff. When things were looking bad, they rallied for an excellent finish.


9. Boise State Broncos (-1 / 8)

They may have finished behind Colorado State at NCAA's (10th), but I think it's fair to say that the Broncos were the better team throughout most of the year. They were 5th at Nuttycombe and won the Mountain West title. Overall, it was a very solid year for Coach Ihmels' squad who had one of their best seasons in recent history.


8. Wisconsin Badgers (-3 / 5)

They entered the season at #8 in our rankings, and now they will leave in that same spot. Overall, it was a very solid season for the Badgers who had a phenomenal runner-up finish at Nuttycombe and later went on to win BIG 10's. However, the teams that they beat at Nuttycombe would eventually come back to finish ahead of the Badgers at the more important meet (Nationals). That is why Wisconsin falls to 8th in our rankings.


7. Iowa State Cyclones (-1 / 6)

Overall, it was a very solid season for the Iowa State Cyclones. They repeated their 7th place national finish from last year and were led by a new low-stick in Edwin Kurgat. Andrew Jordan still had a strong season, but he lacked the same All-American spark that we saw from him last year.


It appears that Thomas Pollard may not have regained all of his fitness from last year's illness while Festus Lagat was nowhere to be seen after finishing 23rd at Nuttycombe. And what happened to Stanley Langat? Where was he throughout this entire season? Was he redshirted?


There are a handful of key scorers who could have had a huge impact in the Cyclones lineup this season. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see all of them. The good news is that all of those names mentioned above return in 2019, making Iowa State a legitimate contender for the podium once again. The loss of Dan Curts will hurt, but it won't be the deciding factor in how successful this team can be next year.


6. Washington Huskies (+1 / 7)

What an incredible season for the Huskies. The addition of Coach Powell has dramatically changed the landscape of the PAC 12 with Washington now a legitimate contender. The transfer of Tanner Anderson was a game changer and with the development of sophomores Tibebu Proctor and Talon Hull, the Huskies looked like a team who could have scared for the podium. In year one of the Powell era, Washington finished 6th at NCAA's. Let's just wait to see what happens in year two...


5. Colorado Buffaloes (+4 / 9)

Wow. What a performance from the Buffaloes. They threw away all fancy race tactics and just went for it. Placing three men in the top 11 was a massive boost in their scoring and it was the main reason why they finished as the 4th and final podium team. They had the best top three in the field, and Eduardo Herrera had a strong performance of his own by finishing 43rd overall (37th in the team scoring). The fifth scorer continued to be the main issue for this group as he finished 147th overall. Still, this was a strong group who deserved an All-American team finish.


They may have beaten Stanford at the National Championships, but after losing to the Cardinal twice during the regular season (as well as Washington), we opted to put Colorado at the #5 spot in our rankings.


4. Stanford Cardinal (-1 / 3)

It must have been a heartbreaking day for the Stanford men who finished one team spot shy of the podium (5th). There is no questioning that the Cardinal had one of the best top three's in the NCAA this year between Fisher, Ostberg, and Parsons. Unfortunately, the backend of their lineup was a liability and it proved to be the main reason why Stanford finished 5th instead of 4th.


They may have finished 5th behind Colorado, but I think it's a fair argument to still have them in the top four. They were the better team throughout the entire season and they beat the Buffaloes twice prior to Nationals. Sure, Nationals wasn't their best day, but it's not like they had a monumental collapse.


3. Portland Pilots (+1 / 4)

Once again, Portland quietly posts yet another strong performance, finishing 3rd at the National Championships. With three men ending the day as All-Americans, you have to commend Coach Rob Conner for the work he has done with this team. Losing Jeff Thies and Matt Welch isn't easy to overcome. It took a lot of development to replace those two in the lineup, but the Pilots clearly handled the task incredibly well.


2. BYU Cougars (0 / 2)

Is this the best team to never win a national title? I'm sure the 2004 Wisconsin squad would be in that conversation, but the BYU men have been at an elite level for quite some time now. They may not have won, but they have a lot to be proud of.


1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (0 / 1)

Dynasty complete. With six men finishing in the top 40, NAU showed that they were the undeniable #1 team of the 2018 season. Where do they stand amongst the all-time greats? It's tough to say, but this group will be remembered for a very long time.

ADDED

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Princeton Tigers


KICKED OFF

Arkansas Razorbacks

Virginia Cavaliers


JUST MISS (in no order)

Michigan State Spartans

Washington State Cougars

Villanova Wildcats

Georgetown Hoyas

Furman Paladins

Arkansas Razorbacks

Virginia Cavaliers


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no order)

Temple Owls

Army Black Knights

UNC Tar Heels

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Utah State Aggies

Texas Longhorns

Wake Forest Deacons

Florida State Seminoles


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK

Wyoming Cowboys

12th at Nationals. Keep in mind that this is the same team who finished 9th in the Mountain region last year. Despite their lack of experience on the national stage, they stepped up and showed the country that they were just as good as anyone else. A lot of credit should go to Coach Dahlberg who is in just his second year with this program.


TEAM OF THE WEEK

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

Champions. Three-peat. Dynasty.


NOTES

  • If I had to choose a 26th team, it would go to Arkansas. Sure, they weren't perfect, but they did enough to stay competitive throughout the season after losing their top three from last year.