Men's XC Top 25: Week 6 (10/16)

Updated: Oct 20, 2018


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. Furman Paladins (Unranked)

After a sub-par performance at Joe Piane, the Paladins stepped up at Pre-Nats to reestablish themselves as a potential national qualifying team. They finished 8th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race ahead of an underrated Gonzaga squad and Southern Utah.


Aaron Templeton has become an elite low-stick while Ryan Adams has embraced his role as a cross country scorer. Bernal, Ogden, and Coppi embraced the pack-running racing style that Furman is known for. For the most part, it was enough to keep them competitive.


After losing to Wyoming and Notre Dame at Joe Piane, I was concerned about the overall talent of this squad. However, after seeing such strong performance from the Cowboys and Irish, it's clear that Furman competed against stiff competition two weeks ago. There is still a lot of room to improve, but this was a nice way for Furman to get their confidence back.


24. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (-6 / 18)

Compared to their Nuttycombe performance, this was a tough race for the Thunderbirds. They finished 10th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race behind a Portland team that ran their B squad.


You have to commend Aidan Reed (13th) and Christian Ricketts (29th) for proving that they are legitimate low-sticks while Osterstock (43rd) is showing tremendous improvement. Even George Espino held his own in 87th.


However, their final scorer was the main weak point of their lineup with a finish of 142nd. If that fifth spot can find any significant improvement, then this team should find themselves back in the top 20.


23. Arkansas Razorbacks (+1 / 24)

Arkansas had a respectable 3rd place team finish at Penn State with Griffith and Boit finishing 3rd and 4th. However, gaps began to form after their top two as Ryan Murphy and Matt Young finished 24th and 26th respectively. Ethan Moehn was their final scorer in 50th.


Overall, this was a solid performance, but this is what I expected from a team who lost their top three scorers from last year.


22. Indiana Hoosiers (-9 / 13)

Not the best day from Indiana as they finished 8th in the Pre-Nats White race. Kyle Mau had a solid finish, placing 16th overall. However, the youth of this team caught up with them as the true freshmen duo of Horter (#2 scorer) and Jha (#4 scorer) finished 51st and 76th. Bryce Millar was the Hoosiers' third man in 66th while Joseph Murphy ended the scoring in 89th.


When you look the last four scorers of this lineup, you can't point to any specific spot and say it's a point of emphasis. As a whole, this team simply needs to run better and find some support for Mau if they want to stay competitive in a stacked Great Lakes region.


It looks like Veatch will not be apart of this squad in 2018. That also hurts Indiana's ranking for Week 6.


21. Ole Miss Rebels (-4 / 17)

It's not that this team ran poorly, but they didn't really catch my attention. Plus I just like the other teams in front of them a little bit more.


The Rebels finished 7th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race with Suliman leading the way in 26th. Luckily, Suliman had some company close behind him as Coccia and Abdulkarim finished 32nd and 35th respectively. Even their 4th runner (Mario Garcia Romo) had a nice race in 48th.


Yet, like most teams in the second half of our rankings, the fifth scorer (Cade Bethmann) fell to 84th. This was still a decent race for the Rebels, but their low-sticks need to be (a bit) better on the big stage.


20. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (0 / 20)

You have to be happy with Eastern Kentucky's race this weekend. They kept things close with Virginia and established that they were a team to beat.


James Sugira is the real deal, Romo and Corrales are some of the most underrated supporting scorers in the nation, and Erik Rotich appears to be healthy. However, their fifth scorer finishing in 35th is not going to help the Colonels win these close battles.


They lost to UVA by 11, but I like to think that Eastern Kentucky could easily top this team at the Southeast Championships and at Nationals if everything goes right.


19. Virginia Cavaliers (+3 / 22)

The Cavaliers were challenged by EKU at the Penn State Open, but they handled it incredibly well with some of the best team-racing you could ask for. Demarest, Klau, and Ernst, finished 7th, 8th, and 9th to give Virginia a lethal top three.


Their was a gap after those two with Corbett and Asfaw finished 20th and 22nd, respectively. It was also encouraging to see Randy Neish place 23rd, making Virginia a team that is deep through six men. It's nice to have that security blanket as they head into the postseason.


18. Purdue Boilermakers (-2 / 16)

The Boilermakers underwhelmed compared to their big performance at Nuttycombe. They finished 7th in the less competitive Pre-Nats White race, three points behind Air Force.


Carpenter got the job done with a 9th place finish while Brody Smith had a nice race in 28th. He was closely followed by Curt Eckstein who held his own in 31st. However, the final two scorers finished 80th and 86th. With a top three like that, Purdue should still be a competitive team. However, those final two scorers need to close the gap if they want stay in the mix with the top teams.


Keep in mind that UCLA was only 29 points ahead in 4th place. If Purdue's fourth and fifth scorers each improve by 15 spots (still outside of the top 60) then the Boilermakers are suddenly battling with some of the best teams in the nation.


17. Air Force Falcons (-5 / 12)

Much like Purdue, this was not the race we expected to see from Air Force, especially after their phenomenal race at Nuttycombe. The Falcons finished 6th in the Pre-Nats White race and were led by Mickey Davey who had a respectable 15th place finish. Trevor Siniscalchi continued his breakout season with a 27th place finish of his own.


The final three men is where we began to see the scoring weaknesses. The Falcons closed out of their top five by finishing 48th, 70th, and 71st.


Jacob Bilvado is a great distance runner who has the talent to run with Davey and Siniscalchi. Unfortunately, his inconsistency has made Air Force a wildcard team. He was their fifth scorer this past weekend, a lineup position that I'm sure he wants to improve upon.


16. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Unranked)

It would be unfair to say that Notre Dame is riding the success of one recruiting class. Their breakout 5th place finish in the Pre-Nats White race was the result of an entire team putting together an excellent performance.


Yared Nuguse showed that he is more than just a miler after finishing 13th overall while Andrew Alexander finished 23rd overall. True freshman Danny Kilrea finished 36th while Anthony Williams finished 55th. The final scorer was Kevin Salvano who ended the day in 93rd.


Obviously it would be nice to see their fifth man close the gap between the other scorers. Still, this was an all-around strong performance from the Fighting Irish.


15. Wyoming Cowboys (Unranked)

As if Notre Dame's breakout performance wasn't enough Wyoming showed that they were the real deal. Paul Roberts, the transfer from CSU Pueblo, had a huge 12th place finish in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race, but he isn't the sole reason why this team was/is successful.


Christopher Henry had a clutch 30th place finish while steeplechase stud Harry Ewing was 36th. Daniel Hintz was the 4th scorer in 45th while Michael Downey rounded out the top five with a respectable 72nd place finish.


After five men, this team looks a little thin in terms of scoring potential. That could comeback to hurt them if someone has an off day. Regardless, there many not be a better storyline that Wyoming in 2018.


If you're looking for a team to root for, look no further than the Cowboys.


14. UCLA Bruins (0 / 14)

No Brandt, no problem. It appears that the Bruins have opted to redshirt Brandt in an attempt to preserve his eligibility for 2019. That, however, was not an issue in the Pre-Nats White race where UCLA finished 4th overall.

The Bruins flexed their depth by taking spots 25-30-44-52-54. When you look at that lineup, there aren't any glaring weaknesses, although I would have liked to see Garrett Reynolds finish in the top 15.


With their sixth man finishing in 77th, the Bruins have enough depth to stay competitive in the deepest fields. They'll need that depth as they enter the PAC 12 Championships and the West Regional Championships.


13. Colorado State Rams (-2 / 11)

Not the best day for Colorado State in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race. They had an excellent top three with Rockhold, Hume, and Hamer taking spots 19-20-22. That top three was better than both Wyoming and Oregon's top three (who finished ahead of the Rams in the final team standings).


However, the bottom two scorers proved to be the main issue for Coach Siemers squad with finishes of 66th and 67th. Those aren't awful finishes, but if CSU wants to return to the last year's top 10 ranking, they need to tighten up things on the backend.


12. Oregon Ducks (+9 / 21)

Oregon's performance was either going to be very bad or very good. Luckily, it was the latter. The Ducks finished 4th in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race, silencing the doubters (which includes me) about their massive roster changes from the offseason.


It was a rough first year for James West, but year two is a different story. West finished 17th this weekend while Australian redshirt freshman Charlie Hunter came out of nowhere to place 24th.


And their final three scorers? Maybe one of the best 3-4-5's in the nation with finishes of 37th (Teare), 38th (Haney), and 39th (Mestler). The loss of Anderson may not give Oregon the scoring edge to challenge Colorado, but their depth is keeping them competitive against some of the best programs in the NCAA.


11. Syracuse Orange (-3 / 8)

Their 3rd place finish in the Pre-Nats White race was respectable, but they lost to a Washington team (who they beat at Beantown) by 89 points. Tooker is the real deal, but I thought Affolder would be a bit closer (he was 35th). The final three scorers of Aouani (43rd), Smith (56th), and Dragon (59th) had decent performances, but they'll all need to improve if they want to contend with teams who have firepower similar to Washington's.


10. Alabama Crimson Tide (-1 / 9)

Did not race this weekend.


9. Washington Huskies (+6 / 15)

After a respectable finish at Beantown (where they finished 2nd behind Syracuse), the Huskies made a huge statement by finishing 2nd in the Pre-Nats White race.


Sophomore Tibebu Proctor showed that he was the real deal, challenging for the win in the final straightaway (but ultimately placing 6th). As for Oregon transfer Tanner Anderson, he was 11th while sophomore Talon Hull was 14th. Their final two scorers (Huxham and Moussa) rounded out the top five in 34th and 41st.


After a 2017 season with inconsistent performers at the front of their pack, the Huskies now have three legitimate low-sticks. To say that this team is an dangerous would be an understatement.


With Powell at the helm and a handful of top-tier talent, Washington has suddenly become one of the most well-rounded squad that the NCAA has to offer.


8. Boise State Broncos (+2 / 10)

Did not race this weekend.


7. Colorado Buffaloes (0 / 7)

Finishing 3rd in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race is what I expected from Colorado. Joe Klecker had a nice race in his season debut, finishing 5th overall. Eduardo Herrera struggled a bit, finishing as the team's fourth scorer in 31st. Yet, when one man has an off-day, someone else needs to step up. That's where Ryan Forsyth comes in. He placed 10th overall while John Dressel finished 16th. Ethan Gonzales ended the scoring with a 50th place finish.


There are a lot of good things we can take away from this performance. Klecker is healthy, Forysth has low-stick potential, Dressel is healthy enough to post consistent scoring performances, and Gonzales can hold his own as a fifth scorer.


If everyone in this top five runs their best on the same day, then the Buffaloes could very easily contend for a podium spot at Nationals.


6. Iowa State Cyclones (0 / 6)

Did not race this weekend.


5. Wisconsin Badgers (0 / 5)

Did not race "A" team this weekend.


4. Portland Pilots (0 / 4)

Did not race "A" team this weekend.


3. Stanford Cardinal (0 / 3)

Fisher got the win, Ostberg finished among the top 10 (8th), and Parsons was the key third scorer without Fahy in the lineup. Overall, none of this is particularly surprising. They finished 2nd in the Pre-Nats Cardinal race by a significant margin to a team that is likely a dynasty (NAU). However, if Coach Milt puts Fahy back into this top seven, then the Cardinal could very easily contend with BYU...


2. BYU Cougars (0 / 2)

The Cougars scored 29 points to win the Pre-Nats White race. Yes, BYU is an incredibly talented squad, but there weren't any teams who were truly capable of challenging them. With that in mind, we still learned a lot about this squad.


Linkletter is still one of the best runners in the NCAA after winning the title this past weekend. Clayson Shumway is a true ace, Clayton Young is healthy, Conner Mantz can compete with anyone, and Connor McMillan? Well...he's still really good.


1. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (0 / 1)

Five in the top 15, seven in the top 21. Are you surprised? No one is touching this team with that kind of depth. The more important result is that true freshman Ryan Raff finished 21st. He is just another name who will headline the Lumberjacks scoring five in 2019.

ADDED

Wyoming Cowboys

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Furman Paladins


KICKED OFF

Texas Longhorns

Michigan Wolverines

Washington State Cougars


JUST MISS (in no order)

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Michigan State Spartans

Washington State Cougars

Michigan Wolverines

Villanova Wildcats

Georgetown Hoyas

UNC Tar Heels

Gonzaga Bulldogs


WHO TO WATCH (in no order)

Temple Owls

Penn Quakers

Army Black Knights

Utah State Aggies

Princeton Tigers

NC State Wolfpack

Texas Longhorns


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK

Wyoming Cowboys

For years, the Mountain region has been crowded by handful of top-tier programs. However, Wyoming is changing that narrative in 2018. The rest of the NCAA better take notice. Wyoming is for real and they're not going away.


TEAM OF THE WEEK

Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

They have the best low-sticks in the nation.

They have the best depth in the nation.

They have the best top five in the nation.

They have the best top seven in the nation.

They have the best veterans in the nation.

They have the best youth in the nation.


What more do you want?


NOTES

  • If I had to choose a 26th team, it would go to Gonzaga. They deserve a mention for having a great team performance in the Pre-Nats White race. If Mwaura is able to hang with the low-sticks, then the Bulldogs could be a very interesting team to watch come November.

  • Let's give some love to UNC. They showed that they are more than just a one-race-wonder after a respectable 6th place finish at Penn State. All of the teams who finished ahead of them will either make it to Nationals or just miss out on qualifying (i.e. Michigan State).