TSR's "If Everything Was Normal" D2 XC Top 10 Teams (Men): #4 NW Missouri Bearcats

After a monumental 5th place finish at the 2019 D2 NCAA XC Championships, the Bearcats are hungry for more. They lose their top runner (Karim Achengli) to expired eligibility, but return the rest of their team that were the runner-ups at the MIAA Championship as well as the Central Regional Championships last fall.

Not only that, but they will likely be fielding a few underrated names who could emerge as key scorers for this team whenever they return to competition.

In other words, there is a lot of scary-good potential with this group.

* * *

Jhordan Ccope (TSR #9) is once again going to be a low-stick for NW Missouri as he finished 9th at the NCAA Championships in 2019. He is also the only remaining All-American from last year's squad. However, his success wasn't just isolated to the postseason as he was 6th at the Chile Pepper Festival, taking down names such as Sam Worley, Dylan Ko and Preston Cates in the process.

However, Ccope’s progression as a runner did not end during cross country as he set new bests on the indoor oval in both the 3000 meters and 5000 meters. His PR of 14:06 (5k) qualified him for the Indoor National Championships, a meet where he was looking to take home All-American honors before it was ultimately cancelled.

Just missing out on being an All-American last fall was Augostine Lisoreng who, on paper, has enough raw talent to be a top-40 finisher at the national meet. He was the Bearcat’s reliable number three scorer throughout the 2019 season and will look to close the gap between himself and Ccope whenever they return to competition.

A true long-distance runner, Lisoreng ran the third fastest 10k time in the NW Missouri program history at the Central regional meet. His 6th place finish at the Southern Stampede meet, as well as a 4th place result at the MIAA Championships are all encouraging performances. The potential is there for him to be an All-American ace and when races start up again, he will look to prove himself as someone of that caliber.

Mike Lagat is the last of the NW Missouri runners to have finished inside of the top-100 at NCAA's last year. He started off the 2019 season with an unexciting 67th place finish at the Chile Pepper Festival, but then replicated that same finish at the NCAA Championships. If he can become a more consistent runner during the entirety of a cross country season, then he will make a profound impact on this squad as he attempts to fill the scoring holes in this lineup.

Others such as Jake Norris, Tucker Dahle and Kyle Drzka can be the X-factors on this Bearcat team given the experience that they gained during last fall. Admittedly, the gap between the other three men that we mentioned was rather large last year, but they can at least offer depth to a team that has more options than some may realize...

* * *

But wait, there's more!

Last winter, NW Missouri added Iowa transfer Reece Smith to their roster. This was a massive pickup for the Bearcats as Smith went on to run 8:25 for 3000 meters in his first season of collegiate indoor track. He could be a vital piece who ends up as key scorer for this team.

We didn't get to see Fedrick Kipyego or Jacob Nkamasisai last fall, two men who were redshirted in an effort to preserve their eligibility for this season.

Kipyego was a strong distance talent during his time at Florida A&M as he finished 5th at the 2018 Mountain Dew Invitational and 2nd at the 2018 Falcon Classic, one spot ahead of eventual star Christian Noble.

As for Nkamasisai, he's run 14:33 for 5000 meters and was one spot behind Noble at that same Falcon Classic race from 2018. Obviously, Noble has improved tremendously since then, but it just goes to show what kind of talents both Kipyego and Nkamasisai can be if everything clicks for them.

* * *

Although the Bearcats made history last season, this year’s team is built differently.

Ccope is someone who can take the edge off in terms of scoring responsibility while the returners from last year showed plenty of promise during the postseason. Adding in an underrated transfer and two quietly talented redshirts should make this team a major problem for D2 foes whenever they next toe the line.