Updated: Apr 8
Outside of the Georgetown men and Villanova women, which teams got robbed from our Top 10 rankings?
Maura: In my opinion, I thought that the BYU men’s recruiting class got robbed from the rankings. The Cougars bring in eight new freshmen and if you look at their resumes, these men have both experience and talent. Six of the eight men have raced at Nike Cross Nationals, six men have run 9:25 or faster for 3200, and four men have run 1:57 or faster in the 800. With times and numbers like these, the BYU men have many guys that can fill open spots on their roster. Grant Gardner, who has shown tremendous range from the 800 to 5k, is a top recruit for the Cougars. However, even though the BYU men bring in all these men, one has to think about how many of them will take a two-year church mission right away.
Garrett: I would agree with Maura that the BYU men got robbed, but not necessarily based off their times. They had only one guy faster than 1:56, no one under 4:10, only one runner under 9:00, and no one under 15:00. However, their extensive depth and outstanding championship experience made them extremely valuable and it was nearly enough to put them into our rankings. Despite all of that, they simply didn’t have the firepower or times to crack our Top 10.
Ben: I can’t help but agree with Maura. BYU’s class is filled with a nice blend of quantity and quality who should develop into Coach Eyestone’s next group of All-Americans.
Garrett: I also feel like we need to mention other men's groups like Binghamton (great steeplechasers and milers), Duke (deep group of milers), and Iowa State (a strong duo in Tim Sindt and Matt Meinke). The Ivy League also had a few great teams bring in some strong recruits.
Maura: As for the women, I would say that the Colorado Buffaloes were robbed from the rankings. Come on, it’s Colorado, they always get strong recruits because women want to join an established legacy. Colorado landed Emily Covert, who has run 4:47 (1600) and 10:06 (3200), and who finished in the top five at both Nike Cross Nationals and Footlocker Nationals in 2018. Then you’ve got Rylee Robinson and Anna Shults, two more runners under the elusive 11 minute barrier for the 3200. The incoming freshmen Colorado signed have the ability to slide their way into top positions on this roster in both the middle and long distance events.
Ben: I’m not sure if Utah State’s women got robbed per say, but they certainly have a compelling case for a top 10 spot if you value quantity over quality. They have 12 freshmen coming in next year with six women who have run under 11 minutes in the 3200. While they don’t have any high-level recruits coming in next year, they will have great depth. Recruiting is not an exact science as high school stars don’t always translate into college. By bringing in plenty of recruits, Utah State is buying a lot of lottery cards in the hope that their training will produce some stars.
Garrett: There are a few women’s recruiting classes in this conversation. Colorado is certainly one team to mention, but Duke and Illinois were right on the cusp. Duke may have been unfairly judged based on their lack of recruiting depth while we argued that Indiana was slightly more well-rounded than Illinois. That 10th spot was up for debate for a while and I never felt convinced about it...even now.
Which team was the most difficult to rank?
Maura: For the men, Notre Dame was difficult to rank. Notre Dame had success both on the cross country course and on the track this past year, making the Fighting Irish a hotspot for incoming freshmen. Carter Cheeseman, Jake Renfree, and Nicholas Mota are extremely talented and will look to make an immediate impact. However, what made Notre Dame hard to rank was whether or not they should be higher up in the rankings than #5. The argument could be made to bump Notre Dame ahead of Northern Arizona, but NAU just got runners who have proven their talent on the national stage with their placings and times. That’s not to say that Notre Dame’s recruits aren’t fast because believe me, three men under 4:10 is crazy. Being ranked as #5 gives these freshmen the chance to prove themselves against the top four teams in upcoming races.
Garrett: The Oregon men were a problem. They went as high as #5 to as far back as #13 because of their lack of depth. I guess #8 seemed pretty reasonable, and those two recruits were a huge deal, but this year’s emphasis on depth and roster needs made Oregon a big question mark for our Top 10.
Ben: Like Garrett said, the Oregon men were a struggle to place because their entire class relied on only two men. NAU was similarly difficult to place for the same reason because they only have four incoming recruits (three if you include those who committed this past year). Although they are all high-level recruits, it was difficult to compare the new Lumberjacks to the new Irish and Ducks recruits.
Maura: Women wise, choosing the #10 team was difficult because Indiana and Illinois were two teams with similar incoming firepower. Illinois ended up being on the outside looking in because Indiana ultimately signed women with more depth from the 800 to the 5k. Even though Indiana has one less recruit than Illinois, the incoming freshmen for Indiana have stronger PR's in an overall sense. I’m not saying that the women of Illinois will let the Indiana women run away during races, Indiana just looks to be more prepared for the all three of the 2019-2020 seasons...but it was really close.
Garrett: As for the women, I think Stanford was the hardest. I look at that group on paper and think that they should be the #3 team in our recruit rankings. In most programs, that class would be full of athletes who could contribute immediately. But for these women, that may not be the case. I don’t know how much of an impact that should’ve had on their ranking, but it felt like it was quite a bit.
Ben: Distinguishing where Washington’s women fit into the top four was challenging. The Huskies are bringing in some major mid-distance talent along with some pure distance runners. Determining how to differentiate between a class like Boise State - which was made up of mostly cross country runners - was a tough task.
What surprised you the most when you were researching through recruit data?
Maura: I don’t know if it’s just me, but what surprised me the most was the amount of international athletes coming to the United States to run. Take California Baptist University for example. Both their men's and women's teams shot up in the rankings and collectively, they bring in a dozen* international students. Numerous Canadians, Europeans, Australians, etc. are looking to fill spots on rosters for various teams. In recent years, international athletes have been successful in the NCAA and I expect the same thing to happen this year and years down the road.
*Note: Some of these recruits will not have full 4-year eligibility at CBU
Garrett: This is really odd, but Portland State had a ton of recruits between both the men and women. None of them were really good enough to make us consider putting them in our Top 10, but they just have so many additions to their roster. The same goes for the Utah State women who bring in 12 distance recruits of their own.
Ben: For me, it was surprising how even some of the biggest and most prestigious schools were only able to bring in two or three recruits this year. Whether that is due to scholarship restrictions or an inability to attract talent (probably more of the former), it is strange to see certain schools bet their future on a limited amount of recruits.
If you were solely in charge of the recruit rankings, what would your reordered Top 10 look like?
Maura: Obviously the Georgetown men and Villanova women needed to be included. However, outside of the Wildcats, I would not reorder the women’s Top 10 at all. Each team is solid, shows depth in all distances, and has incoming freshmen who can fill new roles. For the men, I would change the #9 and #10 teams. Texas men would be bumped out, Princeton men move to #10, and BYU men slide into #9. If you throw in Georgetown, they're anywhere from #6 to #4.
Garrett: The Hoyas are flirting around the #3 or #4 spot (they're better than some people realize). Meanwhile, Villanova would be around #7 and #6. This means the Indiana women and Texas men are pushed out. I would also find room for the Stanford women at the #4 spot. All else can stay the same.
Ben: I would add Villanova to the women’s ranking at the #7 spot and bump Indiana out. Other than that, I would keep the women’s rankings the same. For the men, I would add Georgetown to the #8 spot and bump out Texas.
Any final thoughts on the rankings?
Maura: My only final thought on the rankings currently concerns the Stanford men. With the coaching change, Chris Miltenberg leaving Stanford for UNC, do any of their incoming freshman choose to follow him to UNC? If this is the case, the Stanford men would no longer be ranked #2.
Garrett: I've had a few people ask me how the rankings are decided. Our Top 10 is based on a variety of factors with a good chunk of the weight going towards top-ranked times. However, we also look at overall depth, how recruits address specific team needs, general experience, major individual accomplishments, and big-name star-power. It's not an exact science, but we did consider all of those aspects and I thought we had a pretty good balance of that in our rankings.