TSR's 2020 Rankings Update #1: D2 XC Top 10 Teams (Men)

The Stride Report has opted to only rank teams that have competed this season (i.e. results are posted on TFRRS). We will not be doing "mid-season" individual rankings for the altered 2020 season, although we may opt to do season-ending individual rankings. That is still TBD.

10. Hillsdale Chargers

Their first meet of the season was not a great one for Hillsdale as they fell to both Walsh and Malone. However, a recent bounce back performance at the Tiffleberg Invitational finds the Chargers cracking our Top 10. Adam Wier and Mark Miller finished 1-2 in that race and helped pace the team to an overall win over a very respectable Walsh squad by three points.

While the upperclassmen have been doing their job, it was the underclassmen who made the difference. Sophomores Mark Sprague and Isaac Waffle finished 10th and 14th (respectively) in that race while freshman Alex Mitchell sealed the victory with his 20th place finish.

9. UC-Colorado Springs Mountain Lions

The Mountain Lions were tough to rank as they’ve only raced twice, once in a dual meet against Fort Lewis and then at the Colorado Springs XC Open where they were defeated by Colorado Christian by just two points.

Afewerki Zeru is a legitimate low-stick who will make a bigger impact on a larger stage when regular invitationals return. Teammates Evan Graff and Mark Simmons are respectable second and third scorers as well, although Matt Schraam (who didn't race at the Colorado Springs XC Open) can typically be found in that spot.

In terms of the rest of this lineup, that part is a bit of an unknown. At the latest meet, it was Luke Rodriguez and Sam Nofziger finishing as their fourth and fifth scorers, but the hopeful return of Matt Schraam and the potential emergence of Walker Rudolph or Branden Bohling could have an impact on this team.

8. Colorado Christian Cougars

One of the more promising teams in this year’s rankings is Colorado Christian. In a normal year, they probably aren’t finding themselves in this spot, but their lone performance this season was an impressive one.

Josh Pierantoni and Ryder Searle have quietly become strong runners and they held their own against UCCS’s Zeru at the Colorado Springs XC Open by finishing 2nd and 3rd overall. The rest of their teammates finished within the top-10 of that race. Trent Cochran had a strong race and looks to be running well in his second year while newcomer Alexander Vance held his own in his first collegiate race.

They’ll need more from their backend scorers to be truly competitive, but for now, they’re trending in the right direction.

7. Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles

This USI team is a tough one to rank. We thought the additions of Noah Hufnagel, Braden Nicholson and Silas Winders would help put this team over the top.

So far, that has not been the case.

Sure, there is no Titus Winders, and he would certainly make a difference in the scoring. Still, this team has been confusing to say the least. They performed a bit better at their latest round of GLVC meets, but still finished behind Lewis just like they did two weeks earlier.

Hufnagel was projected to be a top scorer for the Eagles, but has so far finished as the fifth scorer and then the fourth scorer for this team. Meanwhile, Nicholson, another projected top scorer, failed to finish within the top five for this squad at the GLVC R1 Triangular. He did, however, recently bounce back after finishing third on the team at the GLVC East Divisional meet.

That being said, Silas Winders was strong in his first race and was just behind teammate Gavin Prior. He didn’t finish the race this past weekend, and his absence -- along with his brother Titus' absence -- is an understandable reason why this team hasn't performed like we have expected them to.

When everyone is racing and at their best, the men of Southern Indiana should be a difficult team to take down.

6. Lewis Flyers

One of the bigger surprises of the season has been the success of the Lewis men and freshman Anthony Farmer has been a big reason why they've had success. The newcomer came in and was crowned as the individual winner in his first-ever collegiate race. He later followed that up with a 2nd place finish at the GLVC East Divisional meet. He helped the Flyers to team victories in both instances.

Not to be undersold, senior Dustin Macuiba has been a strong second fiddle to Farmer while the Flyers continue to get encouraging performances from the rest of their team. Meanwhile, Daniel Arimi looks to be having a breakout season, boosting his status to a strong number three scorer for this squad.

AJ Pulido, Joshua Segura, Daniel Laskero and Patrick Hennessey have all been scorers this season and those last few scoring spots will likely remain as a revolving door throughout the rest of October.

If the Flyers can find some consistency from their backend, they could see themselves in a very good spot by the end of this season.

5. Lee (Tenn.) Flames

This was the year that the Flames were supposed to take the D2 world by storm. But so far, that storm hasn't produced much lightning.

Christian Noble is back in the mix and has made some noise after running 23:34 for 8000 meters at the Louisville Classic (which would have been 2nd in the Gold race just ahead of Waleed Suliman). He was also a minute and 20 seconds ahead of 2nd place in his own race.

Now that we’ve covered Noble, let’s talk about the rest of this team. We admittedly had high expectations for the Flames coming into this season. However, there weren't a ton of people who expected a head-to-head loss to Alabama-Huntsville to start their season. Caleb Eagleson is running well, but a few of their typical scorers from last year haven't been quite as strong as last year.

Even so, guys like Adan Rodriguez, Will Stone, Ezekiel Harkless and Silas Eckenroad have been the 3-4-5-6 scorers for Lee this season and their improvements aren’t going to waste as they brought home the team title at the Louisville Cross Country Classic a few weeks ago.

This is a talented team with a lot of depth and a superstar leading the charge. Now we just need to see them put the pieces of the puzzle together and capitalize on the talent of last year's returners.

4. Alabama-Huntsville Chargers

Let’s talk about Alabama-Huntsville and their success this season. After defeating Lee (Tenn.) last fall at both the Gulf South Conference Championships and the South regional meet, one could argue that it shouldn't have come as a shock to see them beat Lee (Tenn.) yet again in their season opener.

But for some reason, it feels that way.

Jay Day has returned for his senior season and looks to be the low-stick that this team needs to be successful on the biggest stage. Fellow senior Harold LaCroix has looked strong early-on in the season while Allan Anderson has made a huge jump, giving the Chargers a legitimate 1-2-3 scoring threat.

The thing that has made the Chargers so dangerous is their top-five time spread. When they beat Lee at the beginning of the season, their time spread was 35 seconds. That’s how this team will be successful. It doesn't really matter who their fourth and fifth scorers are if someone is stepping up each time.

3. Augusta Jaguars

The Jaguars have only raced once this season and truthfully, there’s not a whole lot that we can take away from that race. They finished 1-2-4-5-6 (an unattached runner finished in 3rd) at the Koala Classic to easily earn a team victory with a perfect score of 15 points.

Jacob Poston ran 23:42 for 8000 meters and was 25 seconds ahead of his teammate Chase Kennedy. Hunter Kimball, Brennan Silliman, Kai Brickey and Hans Troyer were all under the 25 minute barrier and finished 4-5-6-7 in the results, further solidifying their domination over a field that was simply no match for the Jaguars.

This team is extremely experienced and it's hard to dislike that fact. They cracked the top-10 at NCAA's last fall and with Poston continuing his success, the depth of their backend scorers gives Augusta the ability to run with some of the best teams in the country.

2. Adams State Grizzlies

We were wondering if the Grizzlies were going to run in 2020 and we were certainly glad that they did. There were some question marks surrounding this team after last season and their departures, but they have since answered those question with a few respectable performances from some new names.

At the Colorado Mesa Invitational, the Grizzlies finished runner-up as a team behind Western Colorado. Leading the way was Isaiah Rodarte (4th in 24:52) and Carson Bix (5th in 24:59). If Rodarte is at this level all season, the Grizzlies could have an underrated 1-2 punch on their hands, especially when they peak for championship meets like they always do.

But their 3-4-5 scorers this past weekend? They were all freshmen according to the TFRRS results.

Yonas Haile, Ahmed Sado and Mikah Paiz finished 7th, 14th and 15th overall in Grand Junction this past weekend. With those youngsters stepping into this lineup, it's clear that this team already looks way different than they did in 2019, although a few veterans may step up at a later meet and have a larger impact on the scoring.

The future is bright in Alamosa, but it may take them (and us) some time to get adjusted to this new-look lineup.

1. Western Colorado Mountaineers

Coming in at TSR #1 is the team from Gunnison, Colorado. At the same meet that Adams State attended, the Mountaineers asserted their dominance. Taylor Stack finished 1st overall with teammates Charlie Sweeney and Evan Sutherland close behind in 2nd and 3rd.

Sutherland was supposed to be a key part of this team in 2020, but we didn’t know that it would be in this capacity. If he continues to run this way, he adds another layer of scoring that raises the floor of this team and gives them some of the best firepower in the country.

However, the biggest question mark of this team still lies with their bottom two scorers. This past weekend, it was Michael Grabowski and Riley Howard. But next time? It could very well be Ryan Outler, Michael Cade or another name on their roster.

The front three have the ability to mask the questionable depth of Western Colorado, but firepower and low-sticks are arguably more important than depth in the D2 scene.