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TSR's 2021 D1 Winter XC Preseason Rankings: Top 50 Individuals (Men)


The Stride Report has opted to exclude the Ivy League from these rankings as the conference is not expected to compete this winter. The below rankings take performances from this past fall into consideration, but they do not aim to penalize individuals who did not compete.

 

50. Victor Shitsama, Junior, Oklahoma State

49. Alex Maier, Sophomore, Oklahoma State

After their breakout fall seasons, both Maier and Shitsama sit right on the edge of All-American contention. They finished 9th and 10th, respectively, at the Oklahoma State Invitational before finishing 6th and 5th at the BIG 12 XC Championships. They were strong throughout the fall and while they do not have any NCAA experience, they will be running on their home course when they toe the line at Nationals for the first time.


48. Christian Allen, Junior, Weber State

The surprise All-American from 2019 only raced once this past fall, finishing 6th at the Weber State Cross Country Invitational. It was not his best performance, finishing behind three of his Wildcat teammates, but he still has the talent which led us to originally rank him at TSR #34 earlier in the summer.


47. Jackson Mestler, Senior, Oregon

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


46. Aaron Bienenfeld, Senior, Cincinnati

The German runner did not run in the U.S. this past summer and fall, but he had a prolific summer of racing in Europe. He earned new personal bests in the *deep breath* 1500 (3:44), 5k (13:42), 10k (28:31) and half marathon (1:02:33). It seems safe to say that he made a significant leap in fitness.


We have not seen him in an NCAA Championship, so it is hard to guess where he will land, but based on his times, he has a great shot at finishing as an All-American.


45. Blaise Ferro, Junior, Northern Arizona

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


44. Paul Arredondo, Senior, Charlotte

Arredondo nearly had a perfect fall, winning two out of his three races and losing only to teammate Nickolas Scudder at the Conference USA Championships. The senior has solid track times, but nothing that would have predicted his breakout campaign on the grass.

He took down some big names during the season, beating out Suliman, Stafford, Bullock and Garcia Romo at the Louisville Classic. While he did not get the chance to race against top competition often, he took care of business during his one opportunity.


If he can run that well consistently, then Arredondo will quietly move up in our rankings.


43. Festus Lagat, Senior, Iowa State

A distance athlete with some of the best range in the country, Lagat is someone who could win an NCAA title in the 800 meters and finish as an All-American on the grass. He was excellent in all three of his cross country races this past fall, finishing 2nd, 4th and finally 3rd at the BIG 12 Championships. Losing only to Wesley Kiptoo and Isai Rodriguez is quite impressive and it earns him a spot in our rankings.


While he has not been able to run at an NCAA Championship in cross country before, Lagat has shown great talent on the grass. If he toes the line in Stillwater in March, he will be a threat to finish even higher than this ranking.


42. Stan Niesten, Senior, Portland

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


41. Alec Hornecker, Senior, Colorado

The Colorado veteran didn't have his best race at the Oklahoma State Invitational where he finished 24th overall (unattached). That's obviously not an ideal result, but we're not going to fault the 2019 All-American for venturing to Stillwater, Oklahoma during a pandemic to race in a very competitive field for what was ultimately a rust-buster. Hornecker is still very much a big name on our radar.


40. Jack Aho, Senior, Michigan

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


39. Nico Young, Freshman, Northern Arizona

We did not get to see the nation's top freshman on the grass this fall, but we did see him run two track races. After a solid 8:10 (3k) at altitude, Young held his own at the Sound Running Track Meet to earn a big personal best of 13:44 in the 5000 meters. On a stacked NAU team, he gives the Lumberjacks yet another All-American candidate whenever he makes his official NCAA debut.


38. Zach Facioni, Junior, Wake Forest

The Australian stayed home last semester and threw down some big times. He ran 7:51 in the 3000 meters and was rumored to have run 13:40 in the 5000 meters at an all-comers meet.


While he has yet to qualify for NCAA’s during his time at Wake Forest, he has finished 14th at the Southeast Regional Championships in back-to-back years and has been a top finisher at the ACC Championships. Facioni's new personal bests shows us that he is ready to take a big step up into All-American contention.


37. Brodey Hasty, Rs. Sophomore, Northern Arizona

Hasty only ran once this past fall and did not have his best race as he finished 18th at the Oklahoma State Invitational. One race during a pandemic shortened cross country season is not going to change our opinion on runners. The Lumberjack has a strong resume and we think he still has the necessarily talent to be an All-American on the grass.


36. Alek Parsons, Rs. Senior, Stanford

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


35. Brody Smith, Senior, Purdue

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


34. Ehab El-Sandali, Senior, Iona

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


33. Theo Quax, Rs. Sophomore, Northern Arizona

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


32. Ezekiel Kibichii, Junior, Iowa State*

*It is unclear whether or not Kibichii will be able to compete for Iowa State due to uncertainty regarding updated transfer rules. Adding the former Eastern Kentucky runner to the Cyclones would give the team another All-American candidate. We have not seen him race since last winter, but he had a very strong 2019 cross country season which saw him finish 13th at Nuttycombe and 9th at Joe Piane.


31. Alex Masai, Senior, Hofstra

The talented senior raced only once just last month, but it was quite the performance. At the Sound Running Track Meet, he ran a time of 28:11 in the 10,000 meters, finishing as the third-best collegiate in the race. The time is not surprising from the Hofstra product who has shown his otherworldly talent at times. The question still remains, however, if he will be able to put together a good race at NCAA’s, but there is no questioning his overall ability.


30. Ben Veatch, Senior, Indiana

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


29. Rohann Asfaw, Junior, Virginia

Like Bullock and Romo, Asfaw was a star of the shortened fall cross country season. He picked up three wins in small regular season meets before finishing 4th at the ACC Championships. Losing to only Yared Nuguse, Ian Shanklin and Dylan Jacobs (all who are within our top-20), proves that the Cavalier ace is ready to run with the best in the country.


28. Cole Bullock, Sophomore, Ole Miss

27. Mario Garcia Romo, Junior, Ole Miss

This Ole Miss duo broke out in a big way this past fall, culminating with a 1-2 finish at the SEC Championships. Bullock had shown flashes of excellence last year as a freshman, but this year he was a consistent front-runner throughout the entire season, never finishing outside of the top-five. Likewise, Garcia Romo was seen as a solid contributor for the Rebels coming into this year, but massively exceeded those expectations from the start. He won two races (including the SEC title) and finished 2nd and 3rd at the Blazer Classic and the Louisville Classic, respectively.


While neither athlete has much experience at NCAA’s, they were consistently beating teammate Waleed Suliman who has a track record of success at Nationals. If they are able to replicate their performances from this fall during the winter, then they will help give Ole Miss one of the best top trios in the country.


26. Clayson Shumway, Senior, BYU

Shumway only raced once this past fall at the Oklahoma State Invitational (unattached) where he earned a respectable 8th place finish. He only lost to people who are above him on these rankings or who have already graduated.


For someone who has not run a cross country race since 2018, it was good to see him back in action. The senior also had to drive 18 hours to Stillwater to race, so it goes to reason that Shumway will be even better this winter whenever he hits the grass again.


25. Johnjack Millar, Senior, Iona

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


24. Devin Meyrer, Senior, Michigan

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


23. Kashon Harrison, Sophomore, Colorado

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


22. Curt Eckstein, Senior, Purdue

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


21. Waleed Suliman, Senior, Ole Miss

The veteran from Oxford, Mississippi was a steady and consistent presence for the Rebels this past fall, finishing within the top-six in all four of his races. While teammates Romo and Bullock may have gotten more acclaim, Suliman was still a very potent member of Ole Miss’s three-headed monster up front.


With a terrific resume of success at Nationals, Suliman is someone who shows up when it matters the most and there is no reason to think that that will change this winter.


20. Drew Bosley, Sophomore, Northern Arizona

Bosley had a bit of an off day at the Oklahoma State Invitational where he finished 15th, but that is hardly something to be concerned about The second-year man from Flagstaff was terrific in his debut year for the Lumberjacks and should play a big role in NAU's return to the top of the podium this winter.


19. Cole Hocker, Sophomore, Oregon

One of the other super sophomores in our rankings, Hocker had one heck of a fall. The Oregon underclassman ran personal bests in the 3k (7:45 in an Oregon time trial) and 5k (13:32), proving that the Duck has launched himself into another stratosphere of fitness. How he translates his track success to the grass is still unclear, but based on those times, he is already a top-20 runner in the country.


18. Dylan Jacobs, Rs. Sophomore, Notre Dame

In only two races, Jacobs built on his 2019 cross country season and solidified his spot among the sport’s elite. Two 3rd place performances, including one at the ACC Championships, show that he has improved this year and he gives the Irish another top-20 runner.


17. James Mwaura, Junior, Gonzaga

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


16. Eduardo Herrera, Senior, Colorado

In his only race of the year at the Oklahoma state Invitational, the Colorado veteran surprised many with a spectacular 4th place finish. Beating Isai Rodriguez, former teammate John Dressel, Abdi Nur and Clayson Shumway shows that Herrera is back in All-American form.


Losing only to three top-10 runners (including two of the individual favorites), puts him in elite company. Like Suliman, the Buffalo runner has an impressive track record of success at Nationals and will likely pick up his fourth top-60 performance at NCAA’s this winter.


15. Ian Shanklin, Senior, NC State

This past fall, the Wolfpack senior did what he always does: be a consistent front-runner. Three top-four finishes capped off by a 2nd place run at the ACC Championships reflects Shanklin’s ability to run well at the highest levels. He doesn't get enough credit for how valuable he has been for the Wolfpack over the past few years.


14. Athanas Kioko, Senior, Campbell

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


13. George Kusche, Junior, Nebraska

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


12. Abdi Nur, Rs. Sophomore, Northern Arizona

After an outstanding 2019-2020 year, the redshirt sophomore raced just once this past fall, earning a 7th place finish at the Oklahoma State Invitational. It is difficult to find a bad race in Nur’s young career and his consistency puts him in a great position going into this unusual winter season.


11. Amon Kemboi, Senior, Arkansas

The first-year Razorback looked strong in his cross country season for his new team, winning the Blazer Classic before finishing 5th at the SEC Championships. While we would have expected Kemboi to finish higher at the SEC Championships, having an off race where you finish 5th overall shows the kind of talent that this Razorback has. If he is at his top fitness, then a top-five finish at the NCAA Championships is not out of the question for him.


10. Patrick Dever, Senior, Tulsa

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


9. Peter Lynch, Senior, Tulsa

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


8. Casey Clinger, Rs. Sophomore, BYU

Clinger’s return from his mission has left no doubt that he is back in top fitness. Finishing 3rd behind Grijalva and Mantz was very impressive at the Oklahoma State Invitational, as was his victory at the Weber State Cross Country Invitational. Throw in his 13:41 (5k) at the Sound Running Track Meet and the BYU runner had about as good of a fall as anyone in the country.


7. Morgan Beadlescomb, Senior, Michigan State

Did not compete during the abbreviated fall 2020 cross country season.


6. Isai Rodriguez, Senior, Oklahoma State

After a frustrating ending to his 2019 season, Rodriguez looked like he returned to his 2018 form. He picked up two runner-up finishes, losing only to Wesley Kiptoo, and placed 5th at the Oklahoma State Invitational. He has been a consistent front-runner and has only lost to runners within our top-20. With the National Championships on his home course, Rodriguez could very well match (or better) his 4th place NCAA performance from two years ago.


5. Yared Nuguse, Senior, Notre Dame

The Notre Dame star has displayed spectacular range over the last year, capped by his win at the ACC Championships this past fall. The 1500 meter national champion won his conference cross country title by essentially leading the race from wire-to-wire, displaying a level of fitness that we have not seen from him before.


While he might not be able to hang with the top four names in our rankings if the pace is hot from the start, he does have the best kick in the NCAA and could take home the title if the race becomes tactical.


4. Cooper Teare, Senior, Oregon

The Oregon star ran some sparkling track times in the 3k (7:44) and 5k (13:17) last year and looks very much like the second-best returner from last year’s NCAA XC Championships. He was not able to beat Grijalva in the 5k at the Sound Running Track Meet, but no has been able to do that for a while. He, like Nuguse, likely faces better odds in a kicker’s race, but he clearly has the fitness to hang at a quicker pace.


3. Wesley Kiptoo, Junior, Iowa State

The Colby CC transfer made his mark on the NCAA right away this past fall, winning each cross country race that he toed the line for. Not only did Kiptoo win, but he dominated against good competition like Isai Rodriguez. His 27:37 in the 10,000 meters in December is a further testament to his talent and ability. We have not seen him against the rest of the top-four, but for now, Kiptoo looks as good as anyone in the country.


2. Conner Mantz, Senior, BYU

The top returner from the 2019 NCAA XC Championships looks like the title favorite we expected him to be. Narrowly losing to Grijalva at the Oklahoma State Invitational showcases Mantz’s strengths and weaknesses. The BYU runner can hang with anyone in the country, but he has been susceptible to strong kicks. His converted 7:47 in the 3000 meters from this past weekend proves that he has good-enough speed, but the question is if he has enough to take home the NCAA title in Stillwater this winter.


1. Luis Grijalva, Senior, Northern Arizona

It is hard to say that anyone had a better last few months of running than this Lumberjack star. Running 7:42 to beat Drew Hunter in a 3k before fending off Cooper Teare in the 5k with a time of 13:16 is hard to match.


Throw in a win at the Oklahoma State Invitational over Mantz and Clinger and Grijalva last fall, and Grijalva has checked off every box on the list to become a preseason title favorite.


He had an off race at Nationals in 2019, but ever since that experience in Terre Haute, he has looked like a man on a mission. From where we stand, the end of that mission will be when he wins a national title.

 

JUST MISSED (in no particular order)

List may be longer than usual as we attempt not to penalize athletes for not running and aim to reward athletes who ran well this past fall (and so far this winter).

  • Carter Coughlin (Wake Forest)

  • Jackson Sharp (Wisconsin)

  • Jack Meijer (Wisconsin)

  • Barry Keane (Butler)

  • Simon Bedard (Butler)

  • Ed Goddard (Iona)

  • Jacob McLeod (Arkansas)

  • Luke Meade (Arkansas)

  • Kieran Wood (Missouri)

  • Brandon Garnica (BYU)

  • Ryan Raff (Northern Arizona)

  • Paul Stafford (Florida State)

  • Nickolas Scudder (Charlotte)

  • Talon Hull (Washington)

  • Tibebu Proctor (Washington)

  • Aidan Tooker (Syracuse)

  • Amir Ado (Washington State)

  • Evert Silva (Portland)

  • Haftu Knight (Texas)

  • Olin Hacker (Wisconsin)

  • Ivo Balabanov (California Baptist)

  • Ahmed Muhumed (Florida State)

  • Ryan Smeeton (Oklahoma State)

  • Danny Kilrea (Notre Dame)


HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)

  • Gilbert Boit (Arkansas)

  • Jacob Choge (Middle Tennessee State)

  • Christian Ricketts (Southern Utah)

  • Titus Cheruiyot (UTEP)

  • Chad Johnson (Iowa State)

  • Mitchell Day (Iowa State)

  • Peter Morris (Virginia)

  • Cole Sprout (Stanford)

  • Matt Owens (BYU)

  • Thomas Ratcliffe (North Carolina)

  • Matt Young (Arkansas)

  • Jack Tiernan (Wake Forest)

  • Shuaib Aljabaly (Wisconsin)

  • Joe Bistritz (NC State)

  • Jack O'Leary (Iona)

  • Josh Phillips (Villanova)

  • Karl Thiessen (Tennessee)

  • Sam Bowers (Georgia)

  • Takieddine Hedeilli (Texas Tech)

  • Shea Foster (Southeastern Louisiana)


Notes

- We believe that Thomas Ratcliffe is a top talent, but his lack of racing and history of injuries has made it difficult to keep him in our rankings.


- Despite their talent, continued absences from Jonathan Davis (Illinois) and James Sugira (Eastern Kentucky) made it difficult to give them a ranking.


- A handful of Ivy League talents such as Anthony Russo (Penn) and Cameron Fischer (Princeton) would have been in our Just Missed column. However, because the Ivy League is not expected to compete this winter, they were left off.

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