As mentioned in our rankings rubric article, we are aware that certain conferences and universities will not be competing this fall due to ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19. However, for the sake of content, we have constructed these rankings as if a regular cross country season will happen.
20. Megan Hasz, Rs. Senior, Minnesota
Much like her twin sister, Megan Hasz has been steadily rising through the ranks over the past four years and looks ready for a breakout after redshirting the 2019 cross country season. Despite finishing only 105th at the National Championships in 2018, Hasz has proven that she is capable of producing a result that is far better than that.
Prior to the national meet, Megan Hasz had been having a strong season in 2018. She finished runner-up to her twin, Bethany, at the Roy Griak Invitational and proceeded to place 14th and 12th at Pre-Nationals and BIG 10's, respectively.
Her 10th place run at the Midwest Regional Championships projected her to finish in the 30th to 70th range at NCAA's, but she had an "off day" which saw her fall farther back than expected.
Since then, Hasz has not run a cross country season, but she has made massive strides on the track. After qualifying for her first national track meet during the spring of 2019 (and redshirting the ensuing fall), Hasz threw down down a phenomenal 5k time of 15:39 at the 2019 BU Season Opener in December, knocking 12 seconds off of her previous best.
Had it not been for an injury and a cancelled season, Hasz looked to be on pace to have a phenomenal 2020. With plenty of time to heal up, she should be back in full force whenever competition does return.
19. Aubrey Roberts, Rs. Senior, Stanford
Roberts may be one of the most intriguing runners in the NCAA this year. The last time she raced at a national-caliber level was during the 2019 indoor season. She redshirted the 2019 cross country season after sustaining an injury and tried to bounce back last winter, but struggled a bit in her return.
Of course, a lot can change in a year. Now, Roberts is set to finish her eligibility with one of the best programs in the country (Stanford) and will have nothing to lose in her final year of competition.
Prior to her injury, Roberts had proven to be one of the NCAA's top talents. After a couple of years learning the ropes, she eventually placed 18th at the 2018 NCAA XC Championships. Her lowest finish at any other race that season was a 6th place result at Joe Piane.
Following her stellar 2018 cross country season, Roberts quickly jumped onto the track and ran 15:32 for 5000 meters at the BU Season Opener, validating her All-American performance on the grass.
The question with Roberts moving forward is whether she can return to her 2018 form. If we pretend that we're having a 2020 cross country season, it will have been two years since she ran a cross country race and with no outdoor season this past spring, her racing opportunities have been greatly limited.
Roberts has one of the highest ceilings of anyone outside of our top 10, but whether she can reach that ceiling is a whole different matter.
18. Bailey Hertenstein, Junior, Indiana
Hertenstein looked like a completely different runner in 2019 compared to 2018. In her freshman season at Indiana, she put together a slew of solid results, but was never considered a contender in any race.
One year later, and her first race of the year turns out to be a victory over the likes of Jessica Drop (out of eligibility), Anna Kostarellis (TSR #41) and Abby Nichols (TSR #33). That was the first strong performance of what would be a major breakout season.
As the weeks rolled on, the Indiana sophomore would prove that her initial win was no fluke. She placed 7th in a very strong Joe Piane field and followed suit with a highly encouraging 16th place finish at Nuttycombe.
However, one could argue that her performance at the BIG 10 Championships was her best race of the year. She finished runner-up to Alicia Monson in that race and took down a field that was headlined with a plethora of All-Americans.
One year after placing 127th at the national meet, Hertenstein improved by 96 places to finish 31st in Terre Haute and earn her first collegiate All-American honors. Although she may not be as strong on the track as some other women, Hertenstein has proven herself in cross country and should roll into next fall (which will likely be in 2021) as a key name to watch.
17. Egle Morenaite, Senior, Iona
In her first national meet on the grass, Morenaite finished only 158th -- a result that didn’t reflect what she would eventually do in the coming years.
In her sophomore season, the Iona runner put together a slightly better regular season, but really made herself known when she won the MAAC Championships. She would go on to finish runner-up at the Northeast Regional Championships and eventually finish 28th at the national meet to comfortably secure All-American honors.
Her junior campaign was not much different. Morenaite did not race until Pre-Nationals, but she competed in the less competitive "Open" race, placing 2nd overall. While notable, it provided little evidence that Morenaite would repeat her sophomore success.
Of course, that wasn't at all the case.
She then went on to win the MAAC Championships yet again and capped her 2019 cross country season with a 24th place finish at the National Championships, securing another All-American result.
Although her regular season performances may be a bit more modest, Morenaite has proven that she is one of the most clutch postseason cross country runners in the nation. A pair of top-30 finishes at the National Championships is not something that should be ignored.
16. Bethany Hasz, Rs. Senior, Minnesota
Over the past four years, Hasz has shown steady progression as a rising talent in the collegiate distance running scene. In 2018, she narrowly missed out on her first All-American honors after placing 49th at the national meet. That following spring, she had what some might consider a “breakthrough” moment, earning a 10th place finish in the 5000 meters at the outdoor national meet.
After redshirting the 2019 cross country season, Hasz lit the track on fire with a huge personal best in the 5k at the BU Season Opener, running a jaw-dropping time of 15:25 and placing herself at NCAA #3 on the national qualifying list at the time. The Minnesota junior looked ready to make a name for herself (again) on the national stage before the rest of the winter season and the entire spring season was cut short.
With a rising Minnesota team and her twin sister by her side, Bethany Hasz looks to be one of the top runners in the nation heading into this fall. In her last cross country season, Hasz notched a string of solid results, including a win at Roy Griak and two 5th place runs at Pre-Nationals and the BIG 10 Championships.
Hasz has historically been known as a cross country runner, but her rising success on the track points towards a big season on the grass whenever she races next.
15. Annie Fuller, Rs. Senior, Michigan State
Fuller has a strikingly similar career path to that of Egle Morenaite (TSR #17). As a freshman, Fuller only ran in a few small races and did not compete at the regional meet.
One year later, Fuller would go on to finish 5th at the regional meet and surprised many with a huge 21st place finish at the National Championships.
Since then, the Michigan State star has frequently found herself on the national stage, earning a national qualifying time in the mile and narrowly missing out on the Outdoor National Championships that spring.
Last fall, Fuller put together a very successful cross country season where she placed 13th at Nuttycombe and 3rd at the BIG Championships, proving that her success on the grass wasn't just reserved for the postseason. After a runner-up showing at the Great Lakes Regional Championships, her 34th place finish at NCAA's gave Fuller yet another All-American honor.
The Michigan State senior earned her ranking through a combination of consistent performances and repeated All-American races. With an incredible amount of experience and underrated consistency, Fuller was an easy pick for the top 20 portion of our rankings.
14. Katelyn Tuohy, Freshman, NC State
The former New York prep runner was one of the hardest athletes to rank coming into 2020. She is likely the greatest high school cross country runner ever and is a major reason why many people think NC State could have/would have won a national title this fall.
In high school, Katelyn Tuohy was the name to know. Winner of three NXN titles, a national record holder and owner of numerous track championships, Tuohy rarely lost. When she did, it was almost exclusively to professional competition.
On paper, she enters the NCAA with the credentials of a seasoned veteran. She has run 9:01 for 3000 meters, 15:37 for 5000 meters and has run a blistering 4:14 over 1500 meters. If those times aren't a good enough reason for her to earn this ranking, then we can also tell you that she closed out her 2019 cross country season with a runner-up finish at the USATF Club Cross Country Championships -- a meet that featured a handful of professional runners.
The obvious question, however, is just how well will Tuohy translate her high school success to the NCAA? Based on what we have seen so far, it seems highly probably that things will go pretty darn well.
Realistically, Tuohy is talented enough to compete for a national title this fall (in a season where we pretend everything is normal). Of course, the transition to a college environment is never easy no matter how talented someone is, which is why we're opting to keep Tuohy at the #14 spot in our preseason rankings.
13. Kelsey Chmiel, Sophomore, NC State
Coming into last fall, Chmiel was considered to be a highly-touted freshman who had the potential to make headlines on a national scale...and that is exactly what happened.
Chmiel showed great consistency for a young runner. In her first real race of the season, she finished 15th at the Joe Piane Invitational and closed out the year with a pair of 4th place finishes at the ACC Championships and the Southeast Regional Championships. The Wolfpack youngster ended her season as the second true freshman across the line at the national meet, finishing 22nd overall and earning her first All-American honors.
Maybe more impressive was Chmiel’s ability to carry her momentum into the 2020 indoor track season. Wasting no time, the NC State freshman dropped a 16:02 5k PR at the BU Season Opener and proceeded to run 9:10 for 3000 meters in February. Had there been a national meet, Chmiel would have qualified in the 3k.
Chmiel's potential upside is super exciting and her ability to effectively compete at the national level on the indoor oval is also very encouraging. The NC State sophomore only got better throughout last fall and whenever she returns to competition, we expect her to continue that progression.
12. Hannah Steelman, Senior, NC State
Steelman was always in the conversation when it came to the NCAA's elite distance talents during her years at Wofford. However, her recent transition to the title contenders of North Carolina State could be what elevates her to the next level.
It has typically been a challenge to gauge just how strong Steelman has been during the fall as Wofford’s cross country schedule has faced minimal top-level competition in the past.
Outside of the national meet, Steelman never placed lower than 5th in any meet she toed the line for last year. She also took home wins at the Southern Conference Championships and at the Royals XC Challenge. The distance ace was 3rd at the only “big” race of the season in Panorama Farms, coming in just behind Jessica Pascoe (Florida) and Annie Fuller (Michigan State).
But the former Wofford runner validated her talent at the national meet, finishing 23rd at the National Championships to earn her first All-American honors in the month of November.
Steelman has had success on the grass, but she has also shown prowess on the track, earning an 8th place finish in the indoor 3000 meters during 2019 as well as a pair of All-American honors in the steeplechase and 5000 meters at the 2019 Outdoor National Championships.
It would be surprising if Steelman did not see substantial improvement with her new program, where she will be surrounded by a handful of other top talents who all have the added motivation of battling for a national title.
11. Ericka VanderLende, Sophomore, Michigan
VanderLende was one of the biggest surprises in the NCAA last fall, but won’t be sneaking up on anyone for the rest of her collegiate career. The former Michigan prep runner was figured to be competitive in her first collegiate season, but placing 25th at her first national meet was a result very few saw coming when the season started.
In many aspects, the Michigan sophomore competed like a seasoned veteran during her first year as a Wolverine. Outside of the national meet, her “worst” result was a 6th place finish at the BIG 10 Championships, the deepest conference in the nation last year. Other notable results included a huge 5th place finish at Pre-Nationals and a 4th place result at the Great Lakes Regional Championships.
However, even earlier in the season, she placed 4th at John McNichols (behind only Taylor Werer, Fiona O'Keeffe and Katie Izzo) and later took home the win at the Buckeye Preview. Despite her inexperience, VanderLende was competing with the elites as soon as she entered the collegiate realm.
If there was any reason to knock VanderLende, it would be for her indoor track season. While her times of 9:20 for 3000 meters and 16:10 for 5000 meters are both solid, they fell a bit short compared to her freshman counterparts Kelsey Chmiel and Melany Smart.
Of course, if that is the only thing we can be critical about for an inexperienced freshman, then the future for this Wolverine star seems exceedingly bright.
VanderLende was straight-up dominant on grass. I'm not sure if we would have considered her as a national title threat this fall, but she could very easily be one in the next couple of years.