Updated: Sep 16
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.
30. Brodey Hasty, Rs. Sophomore, Northern Arizona
Lost in the shuffle of Northern Arizona's arsenal known as a cross country roster, Brodey Hasty is someone who may be overlooked after a respectable, but relatively quiet cross country season.
As a redshirt freshman, the former high school star made some noise in the early portion of the 2019 cross country season, throwing down an incredible 6th place finish at the very top-heavy John McNichols Invitational. With that finish, he took down some of the NCAA's finest distance talents such as Alex Ostberg and the entire Purdue team.
However, the rest of Hasty's season was relatively quiet. He didn't run at Nuttycombe, posted a pair of 3rd place finishes at the BIG Sky Championships and Mountain Regional Championships, and ended his season with a 46th place finish at the National Championships.
When you look at Hasty's 2019 resume from a wholistic point of view, you could probably argue that his 46th place finish at the national meet was the worst result that he had last fall. If that was the worst race he had in his first year of collegiate cross country, then you have to be encouraged about what his best races could look like in the future.
With a 5k personal best of 13:55 and a John McNichols performance that says he's amongst the better distance runners in the NCAA, it's hard to argue against Hasty being a top 30 talent. Admittedly, he hasn't had many opportunities to compete at large, nationally-competitive meets, but from what we have seen so far, his future looks promising.
29. Brody Smith, Senior, Purdue
Purdue wanted to make a statement last fall and they did just that by not shying away from the country's biggest and most competitive meets. Smith was a major reason why the Boilermakers emerged as a top-tier squad and it was hard to find many flaws in his 2019 cross country resume.
Smith was the definition of consistency for (most of) of the 2019 cross country season. He was 9th at John McNichols, 16th at Joe Piane and 26th at Nuttycombe to wrap up what was a very encouraging regular season. The postseason wasn't too different as he placed 11th at the BIG 10 Championships and 13th at the Great Lakes region.
Unfortunately, Smith's only "off day" came at the National Championships where he finished 156th overall. While certainly not the result that he was looking for, it was hard to look at his 2019 season and say it was disappointing.
Smith was easily one of the more consistent scorers in the NCAA and he established himself as a true low-stick for the upcoming 2020 season (even though the BIG 10 won't compete this fall).
With an 8:47 steeplechase PR and a recent mile PR of 4:01 from this past winter, it's hard not to appreciate an athlete like Smith. While having an All-American finish on his resume would be nice, he doesn't need that in order to prove his overall talent.
28. Gilbert Boit, Rs. Senior, Arkansas
If the SEC does end up competing this fall, we will finally get to see the return of Arkansas veteran Gilbert Boit who redshirted the fall of 2019 in preparation for an all-out season in 2020.
As we look back at Boit's 2018 season, you can see why the Arkansas coaching staff wanted to wait until the team was better in 2020 to fully utilize his talent.
A little under two years ago, Boit was the runner-up at the Chile Pepper Festival and 4th at the Penn State National Open. He later took home the SEC title over a very top-heavy field and cruised through the South Central region en route to a national qualifying performance. At the 2018 national meet, Boit would struggle a bit and end his fall competition with a 126th place finish.
However, Boit's performances on the track prop up whatever flaws he had on the grass. The Razorback ace owns personal bests of 13:37 (5k) and 28:25 (10k) on the outdoor oval and has consistently been a major force in the SEC for years now.
He hasn't been perfect and could certainly be better when it comes to performing well on the national stage. However, Boit is one of the best distance runners in the entire southern portion of the NCAA and that should be acknowledged when crafting our XC Top 50.
27. Ehab El-Sandali, Senior, Iona
See #21 Johnjack Millar (Iona) for excerpt
26. Jacob Choge, Rs. Senior, Middle Tennessee State
Before we get started on Choge, I just want to say that we tried to confirm if he still has eligibility this year, but never found out. According to TFRRS, he has run three full cross country seasons between 2016, 2017 and 2019. However, in 2018, he was a DNS at the Commodore Classic and never seen again that season.
While we are confident that Kigen Chemadi is out of eligibility, TFRRS suggests that Choge still has one year of eligibility left for cross country despite being listed as a senior in the 2019 national meet results.
Choge has been such a difficult name to rank. No one would ever doubt his overall fitness given that he ran 13:38 for 5000 meters this past winter, but his 2019 cross country results truthfully didn't inspire much confidence.
Going into the 2019 National Championships, Choge never finished outside of the top three at any race he toed the line for. However, the meets he attended weren't always the most competitive. While races like the Commodore Classic, Louisville Classic, Arturo Barrios Invitational and C-USA Championships had respectable fields, they weren't at the caliber of meets like John McNichols, Nuttycombe, Pre-Nationals and Joe Piane.
This left Choge with a shaky resume heading to the National Championships, a race he did not fare well in. The MTSU star dropped to 137th place overall to end his 2019 cross country season.
Despite the difficult race at Nationals, it's important to not let that performance solely dictate how we rank him amongst the NCAA elites. Choge had a phenomenal indoor track season and has been a cross country All-American before (once in 2016 and once in 2017).
The fall of 2019 wasn't his best cross country season, but he is still one of the best raw talents in the NCAA who showed a lot of refinement in his race tactics this past winter.
25. Theo Quax, Rs. Sophomore, Northern Arizona
In our eyes, Quax is an extremely underrated talent both on the track and during cross country. Traditionally considered a 1500/miler who owns a personal best of 3:39 (1500), Quax emerged as one of Northern Arizona's top scoring options during the 2019 regular season.
As a redshirt freshman, Quax emerged as the 4th place finisher in a surprising breakout performance at the John McNichols Invitational. After pulling ahead of multiple elite names, Quax only solidified his incredible debut with a 16th place finish at Nuttycombe, finishing ahead of the NCAA's more established distance runners.
However, Quax's hot start eventually cooled off. He dropped all the way to 18th at the BIG Sky Championships, was absent from the regional meet, and faltered to 151st at the National Championships.
Maybe he peaked too early. Maybe his inexperience got the best of him. Whatever the reason was, it's hard to criticize a guy who was in his first season of cross country and had been taking down star names during the regular season.
Moving forward, it would be nice to see Quax perform well on championship stages (whenever that may be). That would certainly boost his stock in our rankings. Even so, what he has accomplished so far deserves plenty of respect and it is plenty worthy of a top ranking.
24. Ezekiel Kibichii, Sophomore, Iowa State
*Kibichii has since transferred to Iowa State, but must now sit out for a year due to NCAA transfer rules.
As only a freshman, the Eastern Kentucky front-runner became one of the NCAA's best distance runners on the eastern side of the country. With James Sugira remaining absent from the 2019 cross country season, the Colonels needed another low-stick to lean on, and Kibichii gave them that.
Starting off his season at the Joe Piane Invitational, Kibichii made his presence known with a monster 9th place finish which seemingly came out of nowhere. He put himself ahead of guys like John Dressel, Ben Veatch, Waleed Suliman and the entire Purdue team in what felt like his grand introduction to the NCAA.
However, Kibichii didn't stop there. He went on to Nuttycombe and dropped an equally impressive 13th place finish, just one spot behind Oregon superstar Cooper Teare.
After dominating the OVC Championships and securing an 8th place finish at the Southeast Regional Championships (which individually qualified him for the national meet), Kibichii toed the line in Terre Haute where he would have his first "off day" of the year.
The youngster dropped to 217th place overall at the national meet to end his otherwise spectacular rookie year.
In a very odd, non-sinister way, it's almost better that Kibichii finished in 217th place at the National Championships and not somewhere between 40th and 100th. A top-100 result (where he's not an All-American) would have been misleading and I think we would have put less weight into his regular season if his performance at Nationals was "just ok".
However, his races at Joe Piane and Nuttycombe are greater indicators of his true talent and I don't think anyone is going to argue with us on that.
23. Kashon Harrison, Sophomore, Colorado
When our team of writers got together to create our rankings, one debate that we always had was trying to gauge potential of athletes against their actual their results.
What deserves more weight in our rankings?
There isn't necessarily a clear-cut answer to that question, but when it comes to rising sophomores like Kashon Harrison, the aforementioned Cole Hocker and one other name that we'll get to later on, it's hard not to look their potential over the next few years.
Although Colorado won't be competing this fall, it's fair to suggest that Harrison would have been their newest front-runner alongside Hornecker and Herrera. As a true freshman, Harrison finished 18th at Joe Piane in a deep field that didn't seem to intimidate him. He didn't falter much from that performance at Pre-Nationals as he later secured an 11th place finish, putting himself of teammate Eduardo Herrera as Colorado's third scorer.
But the PAC-12 Championships is where we truly began to appreciate Harrison's talent. As just a freshman -- in what was likely the best conference meet in the country last year -- Harrison finished 7th overall, one spot ahead of teammate John Dressel in what appeared to be an honest effort from both men.
However, after another 7th place finish at the Mountain regional meet, Harrison's season ended with a slightly disappointing 90th place finish at the National Championships. Even as a true freshman, he was someone who clearly could have been an All-American finisher.
Of course, races like that always happen for athletes who aren't experienced on the national stage and it's hard to criticize the rising sophomore after he gave the Buffaloes an unexpected burst of scoring potency last fall.
If this were to be a totally normal year, we 100% believe that Harrison would have taken the next step towards replacing Klecker or Dressel's now-departed firepower.
22. Ben Veatch, Rs. Senior, Indiana
The loss of Kyle Mau is a tough blow to an Indiana team that heavily relied on his scoring potency last year. However, what we saw from Ben Veatch last fall was wildly encouraging as he proved that he could be a top-tier low-stick that the Hooisers can rely on (whenever they next compete).
For the most part, Veatch never really had a bad race in 2019. He was a little rusty at the Commodore Classic (as evidenced by his 5th place finish), but he really began to find his groove after that. He was 11th in a super deep Joe Piane field and later finished 17th at Nuttycombe.
However, one could argue that his BIG 10 Championship result was the best race of his season. The Indiana star finished 4th overall behind only Hoare, Kusche and Beadlescomb. He defeated veteran teammate Kyle Mau (who was on fire last year), as well as the entire Purdue and Michigan teams.
After yet another 4th place finish at the Great Lakes regional meet, Veatch ended his season with a slightly underwhelming 61st place finish at NCAA's.
While I'm sure all of us were expecting an All-American result out of Veatch, it's hard to be disappointed with the 2019 cross country season that he produced. Not only did he thrive in large fields that were loaded with depth, but he often finished ahead of star low-sticks which consistently boosted his resume.
When a 61st place finish at the national meet is the worst performance of your season, you're doing something right.
21. Johnjack Millar, Senior, Iona
Includes excerpt for TSR #27 Ehab El-Sandali (Iona)
When it comes to the Iona men, there are only two races that we really need to talk about: Pre-Nationals and the NCAA Championships.
The Iona Paddy Doyle Meet of Champions is a nice rust-buster meet, but not anything super competitive for the top men of Iona. The MAAC Championships is almost always an easy-sweep for the Gaels and the Northeast Regional Championships isn't something that we look at too heavily.
However, Pre-Nationals is where the Iona men established themselves as a top team in the country, thanks in large part to their two low-sticks, Johnjack Millar and Ehab El-Sandali.
At Pre-Nationals, El-Sandali came out of nowhere to have the rest of his life, finishing 6th overall in what was a pleasantly surprising result for the Canadian. Millar (who won the Paddy Doyle MOC) wasn't too far behind in 10th place.
At the National Championships, the roles were reversed. Millar had the race of his life to comfortably earn All-American honors with a huge 26th place finish. However, for El-Sandali, it was heartbreak as he finished in 41st place, one spot out from All-American honors.
Together, these two men proved to be a lethal 1-2 punch for the Gaels, although there were really only two races that needed any analysis. Even so, very few front-runners were as valuable to their respective teams as Millar and El-Sandali were.