In yesterday's preview, we mentioned that the BIG 10 may be one of the most interesting conferences in the nation this year. That, however, may have been a lie when you consider the talent we have seen out of the Mountain West. Yet, even if the Mountain West isn't the most interesting conference, it is certainly the most underrated.
Boise State, Colorado State, Air Force, and Wyoming have all emerged as Top 25 teams in our rankings. Each program brings a unique racing style, but they all have valuable scorers.
The Boise State men will enter this weekend as potential conference favorites given their phenomenal performance at Nuttycombe earlier this season where they finished 5th overall. Yusuke Uchikoshi looks like he's back to 100% after placing 14th in that race while Miler Haller finished 26th.
Addison DeHaven's 37th place finish validated the improvements we saw from him during the indoor and outdoor track seasons. The 2017 All-American was expected to be a crucial piece of the Broncos success this fall, and through one major race, he's held his own.
Jeff Laughtenslager, Elijah Armstrong, and Ahmed Muhumed seemed to have a strong grasp at the backend of the lineup after finishing 45th, 48th, and 49th, respectively. Even their #7 man had a respectable 85th place finish of his own.
Simply put, Boise State has firepower and plenty of security at the backend of the lineup. Then again, consistency has been the major problem that has plagued this team for years now. Can the Broncos show that they're the real deal this weekend?
The men from Colorado State have something to prove after an underwhelming 6th place finish in the Pre-Nats White race where the Wyoming Cowboys pulled off the upset and finished 5th. The Rams finished 6th in a much stronger Nuttycombe field (one spot behind Boise State) while Wyoming finished runner-up at Joe Piane to defeat respectable programs like Furman and Notre Dame.
Both Colorado State and Wyoming have a respectable top three. Cole Rockhold and Paul Roberts are legitimate low-sticks that each team can rely on. Rockhold is flanked by Carson Hume and Eric Hamer while Roberts is supported by Christopher Henry and Harry Ewing.
The finish between these two teams will come down to their final two scorers. Wyoming has (arguably) the better 4th man (Daniel Hintz), but Colorado State has an edge when it comes to championship racing experience. Will a well-rounded top four favor the Cowboys? Or can a potent top three give the Rams an edge in the scoring? We'll find out soon...
Of course, we can't leave out the Air Force men. If everything goes right for them, this is absolutely a team that could walk away as conference champions. Remember, this is the same team that finished 7th at Nuttycombe one month ago.
Mickey Davey is one of the more underappreciated low-sticks in the NCAA, especially after his 18th place finish at Nationals last fall. He'll be among the top finishers this weekend and will likely be followed by Trevor Siniscalchi who has been a breakout scorer for the Falcons this season. However, if Air Force is going to be competitive with the top programs at this meet, Jacob Bilvado needs to have a great race. He is a top scoring talent who has shown some inconsistency throughout the past year or so.
If their bottom two scorers can at least stay competitive with the fourth and fifth runners from other teams, and Bilvado sticks with Siniscalchi and Davey, Air Force will contend for the title.
I like what Utah State has done so far this season. They have done well despite not having an elite ace like Dillon Maggard to lean on. Adam Hendrickson has improved by a considerable amount while Luke Beattie continues to stay quietly put together solid performances. They have a respectable pack without any glaring weaknesses throughout their top five. However, the Mountain West is filled with firepower. If Utah State wants to be competitive, they need a top finish from someone like Beattie or Hendrickson.
1. Boise State Broncos
2. Colorado State Rams
3. Wyoming Cowboys
4. Air Force Falcons
5. Utah State Aggies
6. New Mexico Lobos
We said that Boise State was going to be one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation before the 2018 season began, and (so far) we've been right. They have the combination of depth and firepower that some of these other programs just don't have.
I think Colorado State will edge Wyoming, but only barely. The Rams thrive in the postseason while Wyoming is still new to be competing at this level. With only a handful of top ranked teams in this field, I think the Cowboys are better suited for larger races.
Putting a team as talented as Air Force at 4th is a hard thing to do, but they lack consistency and their backend scorers have left me unsure about the Falcons scoring potential. I hope they prove me wrong.
As we enter the individual race, it feels like almost anyone could take it. In terms of rankings, Colorado State's Cole Rockhold appears to be the favorite. The veteran has a stacked resume and is known for coming up clutch in the postseason.
However, the CSU ace will not be able to cruise to the win like he did last year. The Boise State trio of Yusuke Uchikoshi, Miler Haller, and Addison DeHaven are all XC All-Americans. They may not always be the most consistent at the front, but when they're on, they are ON.
Naturally, Mickey Davey will be in the title conversation. His 15th place finish in the Pre-Nats White race and 20th place finish at Nuttycombe proves that he can compete with any of these men on Friday.
I'm also a big fan of Paul Roberts, the CSU-Pueblo transfer who has helped turn this Wyoming program into a national contender. Finishing 3rd at Joe Piane and 12th in the Pre-Nats White race makes Roberts a legitimate title candidate.
1. Cole Rockhold (Colorado State)
2. Yusuke Uchikoshi (Boise State)
3. Paul Roberts (Wyoming)
4. Mickey Davey (Air Force)
5. Miler Haller (Boise State)
6. Eric Hamer (Colorado State)
7. Jose Pina (San Jose State)
8. Trevor Siniscalchi (Air Force)
9. Addison DeHaven (Boise State)
10. Adam Hendrickson (Utah State)
11. Luke Beattie (Utah State)
12. Carson Hume (Colorado State)
13. Harry Ewing (Wyoming)
14. Elijah Armstrong (Boise State)
15. Toby Cooke (New Mexico)
16. Christopher Henry (Wyoming)
17. Jacob Bilvado (Air Force)
18. Ahmed Muhumed (Boise State)
19. Trent Powell (Colorado State)
20. Jeff Laughtenslager (Boise State)