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TSR's 2022-23 Freshman Class Rankings Rubric


Ladies and gentlemen...it's coming back.


One of our most popular series of content each and every year is our Freshman Class Rankings. What we do is look at the incoming distance recruits around the NCAA (from the 800 meters and up) and attempt to evaluate which programs brought in the best young distance talents.


Now, I know what you're thinking.


"Garrett, the academic year is already half-way over. We've got indoor track races coming soon! Why are we doing these rankings now?"


Well, simply put, we just don't have enough time to post these rankings during the summer months. That is, after all, when our preseason cross country lists dominate the site. Not only that, but many schools don't have updated rosters at that point in the year.


It's also unlikely that we'll have any major results on the indoor oval until the second weekend in January. This makes the next week and a half a fairly good time for us to fill the void with something that will probably cause a lot of arguments (which have already started at TSR).


Before we release our freshman class rankings, we thought it would be a good idea to give you an idea of how we constructed these lists, how we collected the data and when you can expect to see our content...


The Content & Our Publishing Timeline

The Stride Report is aiming to release our top-10 Division One freshman class rankings starting Thursday (there is a small possibility that they start on Friday). Our top-five Division Two rankings and our top-five Division Three rankings will likely be published starting early next week.


We will also be following the same release schedule that you saw last year.


For D1, that means we will be publishing teams 10-9-8 for the men and 10-9-8 for the women on the first day. The next day, we'll be publishing 7-6-5 for the men and 7-6-5 for the women. The day after that, we'll be publishing 4-3-2 for the men and 4-3-2 for the women. Finally, on the last day, the top-ranked freshman classes on both the men's and women's sides will get their own articles.


Then, early next week, D2 will post 5-4-3 one day followed by their top-two teams the next day. The D3 rankings will follow the same schedule immediately after.


There's also the possibility that I put together a brief "Just Missed" article tomorrow, but that's not 100% guaranteed. That largely depends on how much progress we make when writing these rankings.


An Important Clarifier...

We understand that the timing of these rankings is a bit odd, especially since we already had cross country action take place this past fall. However, it's important to note that we are ranking CURRENT TRUE FRESHMEN.


So to be very clear, we're looking at athletes who graduated from high school in 2022. We are NOT looking at the Class of 2023. These athletes are CURRENTLY in the NCAA.


Additional Criteria

Redshirt freshmen are not included in these rankings. Transfers from other universities are also not included in these rankings. If an athlete has anything other than freshman eligibility in any season for this academic year, we will not consider that athlete in these rankings.


Mission trips, however, are a very challenging aspect to manage when it comes to our rankings. Ultimately, we decided that if you were a high school senior who graduated in 2022 and committed to run for a certain university, then you'll be factored into these rankings even if you went on a mission trip.


That, however, entirely depends on if we were able to find your commitment at all.


Data Collection & Rankings

Our TSR crew has spent the past week-and-a-half scouring the internet for any and all true freshmen who we could find. We looked at essentially every program that has been even remotely competitive in the distance events over the past few years.


The good news is that unlike past years, these rosters were updated and actually had their new names listed. We didn't have to go to a ton of different places to find our data this year.


Of course, actually ranking these groups is an entirely different story.


Let me just throw out this disclaimer while I'm here: There are going to be A LOT of strong and impressive freshman classes that didn't make it into our rankings. We have about 14 teams who we thought could have been considered for a top-10 spot -- maybe as many as 18 depending on who you talk to.


When it comes to rankings, we looked a variety of things such as...

  • Personal bests

  • Overall depth

  • Championship experience and championship accolades*

  • Superstar talents / nationally-recognized names

  • Roster needs

  • Balance between the middle distances and longer distances

  • Subjective factors (racing style, consistency, roster fit, etc.)

Just like last year, the first three pieces of criteria that we listed hold the most weight in our rankings, but we also looked at a few other things. Not only that, but every division had at least three TSR contributors reviewing these lists.


The reason there is an asterisk next to the "championship experience and accolades" bullet point is because the Class of 2022 is in a little bit of a tricky spot. We're not going to put quite as much emphasis on championship racing as we did in the past.


Almost all of the athletes from this class weren't able to compete throughout most of 2020 (due to the pandemic, of course). Naturally, there was no indoor national meet and the entire slate of outdoor track racing was wiped away.


Neither NXN nor Foot Locker held a national meet that year. And although there were a few racing opportunities, there weren't truly enough for us to properly gauge just how good some of these runners were.


It's a somewhat similar story for the fall of 2021. Most of these athletes returned to racing, but we were still without an NXN meet. Luckily, we had the Garmin RunningLane XC National Championships and the Eastbay XC National Championships (formerly Foot Locker) from last fall to analyze.


To be clear, we're not ignoring national meet results -- those will still play a pivotal role in crafting these rankings.


International athletes

There are a handful of NCAA programs that we looked at who are bringing in international athletes. In a few instances, those athletes may be older than 18 or 19 years old. However, they are listed on their respective rosters as freshmen.


Unless we've been told otherwise, we have based our rankings off of what these rosters say. Is it possible that there are one or two athletes who we included who aren't actually considered true freshmen? Maybe, but otherwise we feel like these rankings should be a fairly accurate representation of which programs brought in the best young distance talents.

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