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.
#10 - 1
Next set of 10 (#30-21) coming on Thursday!
#40 Arsene Guillorel / Samford / Senior
It's not too often that we talk about the French when discussing distance running, but Guillorel is a rare exception. The Samford senior has found his groove and is thriving under new head coach / former Texas Longhorn, Pat McGregor.
Guillorel has been a strong regional contender ever since his sophomore year in 2015. Throughout that year, he never placed outside of the top five at any meet he ran at (prior to Nationals). During the postseason, Guillorel secured a runner-up finish in the South Regional Championships, but struggled at NCAA's where he placed 164th overall.
Jump to 2016 and we continued to see more of the same out of the Samford Frenchman. The beginning of his season was a bit slow, but he eventually worked his way through the postseason and emerged with a much better National's performance with a finish of 57th overall.
Guillorel later took to the track and began to refine his racing skills. Eventually, he would emerge from the Outdoor NCAA Track & Field Championships with a 4th place All-American finish in the 10,000 meters which complimented his new personal best of 28:51.
The south isn't always super deep in regards to competition. However, there are still superstars lurking around every corner and Guillorel should consider himself as one of those guys now. If he can secure a few wins throughout 2017 and establish some consistency early on, then I would be willing to improve his spot in our rankings.
#39 Mike Tate / Southern Utah / Rs. Senior
For those of you who followed TSR this past outdoor track season, Mike Tate was a name that often came up in our articles. After soloing a 13:39 at the Stanford Invite to win his heat, Tate eventually threw down a 13:34 at Payton Jordan to validate his success from earlier in the season. Unfortunately, his season would end early as he failed to qualify out of regionals.
Much like Burcham and Geberkidane, we never did see Mike Tate compete in 2016. It's probably safe to assume that he took a redshirt season and will be returning in 2017. Despite Tate's lack of recent cross country racing, his performances in 2015 combined with a huge breakout track season this past spring is enough to put him at #39 on our list.
As a junior, the SUU Thunderbird ran in a variety of high-level meets such as Roy Griak, Notre Dame, and Pre-Nats. Throughout all of these races, Tate put together respectable finishes, but never had one defining performance. Nonetheless, Tate would begin to find success in the postseason with a runner-up finish at BIG Sky and a 13th place finish in a very deep Mountain region. Tate would end his season with a modest finish of 78th at NCAA's.
I know I may be breaking my rule about the influence of track times on cross country, but sometimes breakout seasons like Tate's are too big to ignore. Running 13:34 is special and almost always leads to success in the fall. He has the experience, the consistency, and the track times to back up his ranking of being a Top 40 individual. If he can improve on those regular season performances (as well as NCAA's) then he will find himself at a better spot on this list later in the season.
#38 Miguel Bautista / Texas Tech / Senior
There may not be an individual in the NCAA who racks up top three finishes as quietly as Miguel Bautista does. In fact, that's all we saw Bautista do throughout the 2016 cross country season. Here are all of his finishes from last year...
-Texas Tech Open: 2nd
-Chile Pepper XC Festival: 3rd
-Santa Clara Bronco Invite: 2nd
-BIG 12 Championships: 2nd
Not bad, right? But there's one glaring miss that you probably noticed pretty easily: Miguel Bautista did not run at Regionals or Nationals.
Why is that? The answer is still unclear. However, what we do know is that Bautista upped his game in 2016 and fought hard for top finishes. These weren't super competitive meets, but they still required honest efforts.
There isn't much to talk about with Bautista mainly because we don't know what happened to him after BIG 12's. There's no mention of Bautista's 2016 season on the Texas Tech cross country page and there is no DNF in the Mountain region results. I'll admit, I was struggling to try and find a proper spot for him in our rankings because of this lack of info.
As we look ahead to the 2017 season, I'd like to see Bautista convert some of those runner-up finishes into wins and make it through the Mountain region and into Nationals. Doing so will help cement his spot in our Top 50.
#37 Jacob Thomson / Kentucky / Rs. Senior
In 2017, Thomson will enter final cross country seasons as an experienced veteran and one of the top returners in the Southeast region. He has made two appearances in the NCAA Cross Country Championships (as an individual) and will most likely make a third championship appearance this fall. Did I mention that he is also an All-American on the track?
On the flip side, Thomson has never won a cross country invitational during his collegiate career despite racing at some of the smaller meets in the south. He also struggled at NCAA's in 2016 where he finished 78th overall, 34 spots worse than his 2015 finish (44th).
Yes, Thomson has not been great at some of the bigger meets like Nationals (2016) and Pre-Nats (2015). However, he has still been incredibly consistent. Outside of NCAA's and Pre-Nats, Thomson has never had a finish worse than 10th in any cross country race he has been in since he came to Kentucky.
What will Thomson need to do to improve his ranking? I'll be looking for that first career cross country win early in the season. I would also like to see a conference or regional title and a better finish at Nationals. If Thompson is able to accomplish two of those three goals, then I will happily better his spot.
#36 Robert Brandt / UCLA* / Junior
*Flotrack Has Confirmed That Robert Brandt Will Be Transferring To UCLA.
For the past few years, we've seen Cal maneuver through a very difficult West region with limited pieces. Although their depth has lifted them through some of these larger meets, they have always had a front-runner leading the way and getting them to the Big Dance (NCAA's). Two years ago, that front-runner was Chris Walden. Now it's Robert Brandt.
Throughout 2016, Brandt established a name for himself. After a runner-up finish at the San Francisco Invite, the sophomore Golden Bear shocked the nation with an incredible 3rd place finish at Notre Dame. In that race, Brandt would defeat some of the biggest and best names in the NCAA such as MJ Erb, Jonah Koech, Antibahs Kosgei, and many more...
He would also put together very solid performance at Pre-Nats where he placed 25th overall.
Brandt's first "less than stellar" performance came at PAC 12's where he finished 21st. It was by no means an awful performance, but it certainly wasn't his best. Luckily, Brandt would rebound at the West Regional Championships which held a much deeper and much stronger field. The Cal sophomore finished 12th overall and helped catapult the Golden Bears into NCAA's.
His success, however, was short lived. Like so many other underclassmen, Brandt struggled at Nationals and finished 109th overall.
Every year, it's inevitable that teams lose a major low-stick. Trying to find a replacement is difficult and not always a given to happen. But in 2016, we saw Robert Brandt step in to that low-stick role and thrive. With a year of big meet experience now under his belt, I'll be looking for Brandt to improve on those 2016 finishes and grab an All-American spot at NCAA's.
#35 Ben Flanagan / Michigan / Rs. Senior
If you have a chance to watch Flotrack's "FloFilms" I suggest you give their documentary about Michigan a try. The two-part series gives an excellent, in-depth look at Big Blue's contagious positive culture which eventually led to a BIG 10 title in 2015. One of the biggest contributors to that culture, at least from a viewer's perspective, was Ben Flanagan. His personality was infectious and it was clearly well received throughout that team.
Unfortunately, we never got see Flanagan race in 2016 after the Wolverines decided to use a redshirt season on him to preserve his eligibility. Yet, it's what the Ontario native did prior to 2016 that really impressed me.
In his three seasons of competition leading up to 2017, Flanagan has put together some outstanding numbers throughout his career (especially in the postseason). His past three finishes at BIG 10's have been 12th (2013), 13th (2014), and 8th (2015). At Great Lakes, his finishes have been 10th (2014) and 11th (2015). Flanagan has also seen a progression in his performances at Wisconsin. He earned his best finish there in 2015 by placing 29th overall.
Yet, just like so many others, Flanagan can't seem to wrangle the monster that is NCAA's with his best finish "only" being 64th (in 2014).
There's not a lot of complexity with Flanagan in regards to his ranking. I liked placing him at the 35th spot because of his outstanding experience and his solid resume in the postseason. If he wants to improve his position on our list, then I'll simply need to see that he's healthy, back to regular fitness, and is capable of becoming an All-American.
#34 Brian Barraza / Houston / Rs. Senior
Yes, we do have another 2016 redshirt in our rankings. Yes, it will be our last one. No, I will not stop answering these imaginary questions.
Despite redshirting the 2016 cross country season, we still saw Barraza travel with the Houston team and compete unattached at a few meets. In fact, Barraza even got a win at the Texas A&M Invite over Kentucky's Jacob Thomson.
Before 2016, Barraza was a star that dominated the southern portion of the U.S. during cross country season. In 2015, he secured two regular season wins, finished 25th at Pre-Nats, took the South Central Regional title, and placed 60th at NCAA's.
Come back to 2016 and you could see that his fitness was only improving based on his track performances. During the winter, Barraza became an All-American in the 3k while also joining the sub-four minute club. He later ran a personal best time of 8:32 in the steeplechase during the spring (unattached). His steeplechase time is a big indicator as to what could expect from him in 2017.
The results and stats may be difficult to find since he redshirted two of his three seasons, but Barraza is only getting faster and stronger. If continues to get wins and becomes an All-American in the fall, expect his ranking to improve.
#33 Conor Lundy / Princeton / Sophomore
One of the most exciting stories of 2016 was the emergence of true freshman Conor Lundy. In just two races, the Princeton rookie ignited a spark throughout an Ivy League that was mourning the graduation of their star representative, Thomas Awad.
After a third place finish at the HYP tri-meet (Harvard/Yale/Princeton), Lundy toed the line at Wisconsin with no expectations and no pressure. That, of course, all changed when he crossed the line in 19th overall. Lundy had now caught the attention of the entire NCAA and they were put on notice.
After Wisconsin, Princeton readied themselves for the postseason where Lundy was a favorite to win the Heps title. Yet, it was experience that prevailed as James Randon ended up with the title and Lundy settled for bronze (while Princeton teammate William Paulson earned silver). Lundy would see another bronze medal at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships where he lost to only Scott Carpenter and the eventual NCAA champion (Patrick Tiernan). It wouldn't be until Nationals that Lundy had his first poor race of the season.
The Princeton frosh may have ended 2016 with a 94th place finish at Nationals, but he set a new standard for what top division one programs should expect out of elite high school recruits like himself.
Quite honestly, I don't need Lundy to do much more. If anything, I am banking on his youth and potential upside. The kid has already shown that he'll be a headache for his opponents throughout the NCAA which makes me eager to watch him battle for wins in 2017.
#32 Thomas Pollard / Iowa State / Rs. Sophomore
Thomas Pollard did not get the recognition he deserved in 2016. Maybe it's because he was so young. Maybe it's because he was on such a deep squad. Whatever the reason was, make sure you don't forget this name when the 2017 season begins.
Throughout the entirety of last fall, Pollard gave the Cyclones consistently strong performances. After a respectable 18th place finish at Roy Griak, we saw the redshirt freshman unleash a 25th place finish at Wisconsin and enter the postseason with an abundance of confidence. Sure enough, Pollard showed us that he was the real deal with a 4th place finish at BIG 12's and an 8th place finish at the Midwest Regional Championships.
Now I know what you're thinking... "All of this great success, but then he struggles at Nationals, right?"
Pollard ended his season with an admirable 45th place finish at Nationals. He may not have been an All-American, but being five spots away from that honor as a redshirt freshman in your first ever race at NCAA's is not something that we should be taking lightly.
Pollard certainly excited fans in his very first season of cross country. He showed me that he could compete with the best, improve throughout the season, stay consistent, and minimize any poor racing. If he can continue to do that in 2017, then I will look favorably at him in future rankings.
#31 Aaron Baumgarten / Michigan / Rs. Senior
Throughout 2016, one of the more exciting runners in the BIG 10/Great Lakes region was Aaron Baumgarten. With Ben Flanagan not in the picture for 2016, Baumgarten assumed the role of being Michigan's ace at some of the biggest meets around the nation.
The rising senior was first spotted at Roy Griak where he ran a very gutsy race and was rewarded with 3rd place. Baumgarten later capitalized on his fitness at Pre-Nats with an 8th place finish to defeat established distance stars like Alex George, Jack Bruce, Lawrence Kipkoech, Dillon Maggard, Evan Stifel, and the entire Colorado Buffalo squad (to name a few).
BIG 10's eventually rolled around and the Michigan Wolverine put together another solid performance by placing 6th overall. However, it was at the Great Lakes Regional Championship where we saw Baumgarten get upset by a variety of names he had defeated earlier in the season (such as Makepeace and Stifel). Baumgarten would finish 10th overall and end his season as the 3rd man out of Nationals.
Despite the disappointing finish to his 2016 season, Baumgarten still solidified his spot among the best in the NCAA. He never finished outside of 10th place throughout the entire season which is incredibly difficult to do when you are racing at such high level meets like Roy Griak and Pre-Nats. At the same time, he failed to qualify for Nationals and his past two performances at the NCAA Championships have been lack-luster at best (206th in 2014, 194th in 2015).
I'm a fan of Baumgarten and I am rooting for him to succeed in 2017. If he can pick up where he left off last season, then I will have no trouble giving him a better ranking in October and November.