XC Preseason Individual Rankings #30-21

​Feel free to check out our rankings from earlier in the week! As always, be sure to comment below what you like or don't like.

#50 - 41

#40 - 31


#20 - 11

#10 - 1

Next set of 10 (#20-11) coming on Saturday!

#30 Brent Demarest / Virginia / Rs. Junior

As a student at Virginia Tech, it pains me to put a rival individual in the Top 50. Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. Demarest put together some under valued performances in 2016 and should be primed for another solid season throughout the fall.

Last year, Demarest started off his season at the Adidas XC Challenge where he placed an unimpressive 33rd overall. However, he eventually found his groove and progressively bettered his performances. Demarest would place 11th at Panorama Farms, 6th at the Penn State Open, and 7th at ACC's.

However, youth was still a factor at the Southeastern Regional Championships and the Virginia ace struggled by finishing in 38th. Luckily, the Cavaliers would qualify for Nationals as a team and Demarest would have a chance to redeem himself. Once at Nationals, Demarest had arguably the best race of his season with a 42nd place finish at Nationals...a stark contrast to his regional performance just two weeks earlier.

Some may argue that there are others with better performances who deserve this spot and I can certainly understand the argument. Nonetheless, I saw something special in Demarest. He stepped up when Wynne became injured, made dramatic improvements from his 2015 performances, and ran with the poise of a redshirt senior...not a redshirt sophomore. He may not have the flashy track times or the status of All-American, but with another year of development, I really like the direction that he is headed. For that, I decided to rank him 30th.

#29 Michael Williams / Washington State / Senior

It was somewhat comical trying to rank Michael Williams in my Top 50 for 2016. He had so many outstanding performances that were inevitably countered by less impressive finishes. Despite the inconsistency, he made the most out of his "good" races which is what got him to this spot.

After a few very average rust-busters early on in the season, Williams raced at Notre Dame where he finished a respectable 16th place overall. Things only got better for the Washington State Cougar as he traveled to Wisconsin and proved that he was the real deal by placing 15th overall. It was best regular season performance of his career.

Unfortunately, things did not go as smoothly at conferences (PAC 12) and regionals (West) as he finished 24th and 17th in those races. His inconsistency left him as a wildcard for Nationals with nobody really sure how he would end up performing.

Naturally, Williams showed us that his conference and regional races were just flukes as he finished 30th overall at Nationals to earn the first All-American honor of his career.

When you compare his 2015 and 2016 seasons, the finishes he earned seemed to be the inverse of each other. In 2016, Williams had an excellent regular season and a great performance at Nationals. In 2015, his regular season was lacking and was made up for by his finishes at PAC's 12 (12th) and the West Regional Championships (3rd). If we can see Williams now combine the best of his two seasons into 2017, then expect the Washington State senior to get plenty of attention.

#28 Philo Germano / Syracuse / Rs. Senior

Philo Germano is a guy that every high school hopeful should be looking up to. The rising Syracuse senior entered this program as a walk-on who was given a chance by Coach Fox to prove himself. Since then, Germano has fought his way to the top of an elite cross country program and become one of their most important scorers. He's living proof that hard work pays off.

In 2015, Syracuse sat at the top of the team rankings and were favored to win the NCAA title...if they could find someone to back up their lethal top three. That "someone" would be Philo Germano who had a breakout season when it mattered the most. The rising star finished 15th at ACC's, 15th at the Northeast Regional Championships, and (the shocker) 39th at the NCAA Championships. Not only did Germano become an All-American, but he also helped Syracuse lock down the national title.

Skip to 2016 and my expectations for Germano were high. Could he match his magical breakout year in 2015, or would he just be another one-season wonder?

As evidenced by his current ranking, I think it's pretty clear that this guy was not just some "one season wonder". Germano put together a slew of consistent races such as a 7th place finish at Panorama Farms, 28th place finish at Wisconsin, and a pair of 9th place finishes at ACC's and regionals. The progression we saw in 2015 just kept flowing into 2016...

Germano would eventually finish his season with a respectable 49th place finish at Nationals. Sure, it wasn't All-American, but I don't think anyone would consider it a "bad" race for him.

Much like Thomas Pollard, Germano never had a poor race in 2016. He stayed incredibly consistent and very reliable throughout the entire year which is what most D1 coaches want in a varsity scorer. If Germano can continue his consistency and break into the top five in some of these bigger races, then I'm sure I'll be able to find some room for him in the Top 20.

#27 Cory Glines / Northern Arizona / Rs. Senior

In 2017, the defending national champions will return a very accomplished and experienced squad. Leading that squad will be Cory Glines who has found outstanding success with the Lumberjacks after transferring from Michigan the summer before his sophomore year.

Glines started off his 2016 season with two runner-up finishes at the Sycamore Invite and George Kyte Classic. It wouldn't be until Wisconsin that Glines flexed his fitness with a strong 20th place finish...It was arguably the greatest race of his career. As the regular season wrapped up, the NAU redshirt junior entered the postseason and continued to put up solid results with a 4th place finish at BIG Sky and an excellent 6th place finish at the Mountain Region Championships.

Despite his great success throughout the season, Glines struggled at NCAA's and ended up placing 84th. It's crazy to think that even without him at his best, NAU was still able to comfortably secure the national title...

He may not have performed well at NCAA's, but placing 6th in the Mountain region and 20th at Wisconsin is the kind of performances you would expect out of a Top 30 guy. This season, I am hoping that Glines can grab All-American at Nationals and even grab an invite win at some point this season.

#26 Chartt Miller / Iona / Rs. Senior

#25 Gilbert Kirui / Iona / Senior

It's no coincidence that Kirui and Miller are ranked next to each other at 25 and 26. For the past few seasons, this pair has grown and thrived together while leading the Gaels to multiple championships.

Kirui and Miller are guys that have had success prior to 2016. Two years ago, Kirui became an All-American by placing 20th at NCAA's. In that same season, Miller had a breakout race at Wisconsin by finishing 8th overall and 3rd at the Greater Louisville Classic.

In 2016, the Iona duo displayed similar success, but to a lesser extent. Kirui earned bronze at Paul Short and later grabbed a 12th place finish at Wisconsin. Chartt Miller didn't race until the postseason, but ended up finishing 4th in the Northeast region. Yet, just like so many others, both individuals had an off-day at NCAA's with Kirui placing 87th overall and Miller placing 64th.

When you look at their collective work over the past two years, Miller and Kirui have put together some outstanding performances at some of the biggest and best meets in the nation. With the exception of Kirui in 2015, NCAA's seems to be the biggest obstacle that they have yet to conquer. In their final year of eligibility, I'll be looking for Kirui to repeat as an All-American and for Miller to apply his 2015 success to the national championship.

#24 Gilbert Kigen / Alabama / Junior

Did Alabama just get the Edward Cheserek of the NJCAA? Kigen has been a star in JUCO and was easily one of the biggest transfer targets for universities around the nation.

So just how good was Kigen? In his first two seasons of collegiate cross country, Kigen went undefeated in the six races he ran in (which included the 2016 NJCCA Championships). On the track, Kigen collected nine NJCCA titles which was just a fraction of his 31 career track wins.

It's hard to accurately express just how good Kigen is because of the lack of attention the NJCCA gets. However, I am not exaggerating when I say that Alabama just got one of the best JUCO runners of all-time.

With that in mind, we don't know how well Kigen will acclimate to the dramatic increase in competition. For that, I have to stay on the safer side and put him half-way through our rankings.

#23 Rory Linkletter / BYU / Junior

For years now, we have seen some of the top distance runners in the nation emerge from Ed Eyestone's program. Miles Batty, Jared Ward, Jason Witt, and Nico Montanez are just some of the incredible athletes that have found grand success with the Cougars. Now, as BYU preps for another season of cross country, Rory Linkletter will be viewed as "the guy" who could help lead this team to a podium finish (or better).

Linkletter found his groove in 2016 with impressive performance at nearly every meet he ran in. The first race of his breakout season came at Panorama Farms where he put together a 9th place finish to help the Cougars pull off the win and upset the defending national champions (Syracuse). After winning a small tune-up meet at BYU, Linkletter shifted his focus to Wisconsin where he finished 22nd overall to validate his strong early-season start.

As the team transitioned to the postseason, Linkletter stayed on the DL. The Calgary-born sophomore placed 4th at the West Coast Conference Championships and was sidelined for resting purposes at the Mountain Region Championships.

It wouldn't be until Nationals that we saw Rory come back to racing. The sophomore executed his race plan to perfection and walked away as an All-American for the first time in his career.

Of course, his success didn't stop after cross country. Once he entered the outdoor track season, he ran sub 13:50 for the 5k and sub 29 minutes for the 1ok. He would enter the 10k at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and shock the nation with a runner-up performance thanks to a huge kick in the last 400 meters of the race.

Linkletter has all of the essentials needed to not only repeat as an All-American, but to improve upon that finish as well. He is clearly progressing and and his performances on the track show that he's learning to actually race, not just attempting time trials. That's pretty rare maturity for an underclassmen who had no previous championship experience prior the year before.

In all honesty, there isn't a lot to dislike about Linkletter. He is someone who is almost definitely going to give you a solid performance and seems to be incredibly reliable. If he can pull off what he did in 2016, then he will always have a spot in our rankings.

#22 Jonah Koech / UTEP / Junior

One of the best young distance runners in the nation is UTEP's Jonah Koech. This kid can seemingly do everything from running a 1:46 800 to becoming an All-American in cross country. Is he in the argument for best range ever? It's certainly debatable.

Koech is a tricky name to figure out. He has had so much success in 2015 and 2016 with top five finishes at some of the most elite meets in the nation such as Notre Dame, Pre-Nats, and the Mountain Region Championships. He even placed 11th at Nationals in 2015 as a true freshman.

So why, despite all of his great success, is he only ranked at 22nd?

At the end of the 2016 cross country season, Koech had the first legitimate bad race of his career. He finished 122nd overall and ended his season with more to prove. As the season shifted to indoors, I expected Koech to unleash a revenge campaign to make up for his race at Nationals.

But that simply just didn't happen.

Koech did qualify for indoor NCAA's, but you could tell he wasn't at the top of his game. He failed to make it out of the preliminaries in the mile and finished 11th overall.

Things continued to regress during the outdoor season. His times simply did not get faster and he was finishing further and further back from the front. By the end of the season, Koech (at least based on the results) seemed gassed as he failed to make it out of the West Preliminary round to NCAA's.

As I have mentioned before, I try not to consider track performance too much when creating my rankings. Still, Koech's regression seemed too important to not consider. Could his blunder at NCAA's in the fall have catalyzed a series of struggles?

Of course, we still can't just ignore how good this kid has been during his two seasons of cross country. He has consistently been one of the best names to come out of the Mountain Region for the past two years.

I will happily improve Koech's ranking in our Top 50 once I see that he is back to his old self and can still perform at the highest-level that we are used to seeing from him. If he does that, then the Top 10 isn't out of the picture...

#21 Vincent Kiprop / Alabama / Junior

I'll be honest, I don't know too much about the history of Division 2 distance running. However, what I do know is that Kiprop is one of the best NCAA Division 2 runners we've seen in a while and he only he competed at that level for two years!

Just like JUCO stud Gilbert Kigen, Kiprop amassed a huge number of wins and national titles. During the 2016 cross country season, he went undefeated in the six races he competed in and earned himself the national title.

On the track, Kiprop was just as good as he collected four national titles (two in the 5k, two in the 10k) and a silver medal in the 3k.

There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said. Just like Gilbert Kigen, I'll be waiting to see how Kiprop adjusts to the new training and competition at Alabama. Transferring to any new program is difficult and not always a smooth transition. Luckily, Kiprop will be training with Alfred Chelanga who has found success since making his transition to the Division 1 level...

#Top50 #recruits #gzatlin #ncaa #analysis