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!
#50 Jeff Thies / Portland / Rs. Senior
Throughout the creation of our rankings, Thies was constantly on and off the list. However, he was a big reason why Portland succeeded in 2016 and his performances on the track indicate that his fitness is only improving. For that, he makes the rankings at #50.
Last year, we saw Thies get off to a hot start with an impressive 5th place finish at Roy Griak where he defeated distance stars like Alex Short, Ferdinand Edman, Yusuke Uchikoshi, and Sherod Hardt. However, his Wisconsin performance left something to be desired as he crossed the line in 49th place.
After finishing 8th in the West Coast Conference Championships, Thies stepped up to the plate with a very solid 15th place finish at the West Regional Championships. Thies' performance was enough to push Portland to second overall and secure his team an auto-bid spot to NCAA's. The Portland Pilot would finish his season with a 70th place finish at Nationals. It was a respectable run, but much like Wisconsin it left spectators like myself wanting more.
Track results aren't always a great indicator of how someone will perform during cross country, but Thies clearly hit a new level of fitness this past spring with significant improvements in the 1500 (both strategically and time-wise). His clear improvement in the spring mixed with strong performances at Roy Griak and Regionals is enough to get Thies into our rankings.
If Thies can improve his consistency as well as his performances at big meets like Wisconsin and Nationals, then expect him to better his spot on our list throughout 2017.
#49 Ryan Robinson / Michigan State / Junior
One of the most underrated distance runners in the NCAA is Ryan Robinson. The Michigan State junior had a breakout season in 2016 and was a huge reason why the Spartans succeeded throughout last fall.
Robinson first caught my attention at Roy Griak where he placed 4th overall to defeat some of the biggest and best names in the NCAA. It would be his last regular season invitational of 2016.
Once the post-season began, we saw Robinson continue his strong performances with an 11th place finish at BIG 10's and a 13th place finish at the Great Lakes Regional Championships. Unfortunately, his lack of experience caught up to him at NCAA's where he struggled to have an impact and faltered to 209th overall...
Robinson has proven that he can be a consistent force in the NCAA. He is one of the top returners on a conference / regional level and will benefit from having championship experience under his belt. In order for him to improve in our rankings, I would like to see him compete in more regular season meets and better his finish at NCAA's by a considerable margin.
#48 Andrew Ronoh / Arkansas / Junior
In 2016, Andrew Ronoh was one of the most highly anticipated transfers of the year. As a freshman in JUCO, Ronoh became one of the hottest transfer targets for D1 coaches around the nation. He never finished lower than 2nd during cross country and became a NJCAA champion in the 10k during outdoor track. Ronoh's eventual transfer to Arkansas made the Razorbacks a threat for the podium (and some would argue the team title).
It took a while for us to first see Andrew Ronoh run at the division one level. In fact, Ronoh never competed in any regular season invitationals throughout the 2016 cross country season. His first race would come at SEC's where he finished a respectable 6th place overall. He later followed up that performance with a runner-up finish at the South Central Regional Championships. However, the strategy throughout that race was clearly tactical and the team score seemed to be more important than the individual race.
Ronoh eventually finished his season by toeing the line at Nationals and placing 67th overall. Arkansas failed to make the podium after finishing 5th as a team.
When looking at TFRRS profiles, there isn't a lot of information on Ronoh. It's difficult to rank someone who hasn't run in a regular season meet, was not very active throughout the track seasons, and competes in one of the weaker regions in the NCAA. However, I think we can still draw the conclusion that Ronoh is a valuable asset to his squad and that he can race with some of the best southern distance runners in the nation.
I may be under-ranking Ronoh, but I think it's fair that we wait and see what else he can do before he makes any jumps in our Top 50.
#47 Jacob Burcham / Oklahoma / Rs. Senior
The biggest question mark throughout our entire Top 50 is Jacob Burcham. As a junior, the Oklahoma Sooner had a huge year in 2015, especially throughout cross country. During that season, Burcham was 11th at the Wisconsin Invite and earned runner-up finishes at both BIG 12's and Midwest Regionals. His eventual 16th place finish at NCAA's made him a candidate for breakout runner of the year.
Expectations were incredibly high for Burcham in 2016 and some even thought he could be a threat for a top five finish at NCAA's. However, we never actually saw Burcham step to the start line. The star from 2015 was absent from the 2016 season, which left many fans scratching their heads and wondering why.
The Oklahoma XC roster has Burcham listed as a senior for 2016-2017 (despite only running three seasons of XC). If that is the case, then Burcham should technically be out of eligibility. Having said that, it is probably safe to assume that the Oklahoma star redshirted 2016 and has one more season of eligibility left for this season. If Burcham does have another season of eligibility, then there is a good chance that we see him on the dirt and grass once more.
Burcham is one of the best in the NCAA and there are very few arguments against that statement. Yet, until we know the definite status of his eligibility, then this is the best ranking I'm willing to give him.
#46 Andy Trouard / Northern Arizona / Rs. Senior
It was a wild 2016-2017 academic year for Trouard who became a national champion, a cross country All-American, and a sub-four minute miler. He even got a chance to compete in the USATF Championships just a few weeks ago. He may be one of the most experienced individuals in the NCAA.
Despite his great all-around success, Trouard doesn't necessarily have the cross country resume that others on this list do. His 2016 performances included a 44th place finish at Wisconsin, a 5th place finish at BIG Sky, and a 36th place finish at the Mountain Region Championships. All of those performances are respectable, but they aren't quite Top 50 worthy.
However, once he toed the line at Nationals, Trouard unleashed a clutch performance and finished 37th overall to earn his first ever All-American honor. His performance was arguably one of the most important finishes of the meet in regards to the team title.
With so many conflicting performances, it's difficult to say where exactly Trouard belongs on this list. How much should his All-American finish play into his ranking? What about his recent entrance into the sub-four minute club? What about his overall experience? Not everyone weighs these factors equally.
While some may argue that there are other individuals who deserve his spot, I'm willing to hold off and wait to see how he performs. There are too many good aspects about Trouard to leave him off this list. However, with that in mind, my expectations for him will be high and I will be looking for him to deliver throughout 2017.
#45 Euan Makepeace / Butler / Rs. Sophomore
I am a big fan of Euan Makepeace. This kid has all of the necessary components to become the next distance running star in the NCAA. He will need time to develop, but he is certainly trending in the right direction.
At the beginning of the 2016 season, Makepeace placed 4th at the Butler XC Open and later finished 5th against a sneaky good field at the Commodore Classic in Tennessee. However, a larger and stronger group of entries at Pre-Nats was enough to expose the inexperience of the redshirt freshman as he finished 74th overall.
Luckily, Makepeace would eventually bounce back and find his groove for the postseason. At BIG East's, the Butler Bulldog took down veterans like Julian Oakley, Amos Bartelsmeyer, Michael Clevenger, and Hugh Armstrong to finish 3rd overall. He later used his new-found momentum to place 9th in a very deep Great Lakes region. Unfortunately, 9th place was two spots short of an individual qualifying spot to Nationals and Makepeace's first cross country season had come to an end.
He may not have qualified for Nationals in cross country, but Makepeace made up for that shortcoming with a NCAA qualifying performance this past spring in the 5000 meters. His impressive display of range combined with his youth makes him an exciting future prospect that could have even bigger breakout performances in 2017.
#44 Evan Stifel / Ohio State / Senior
If you're looking for a sleeper pick to breakout in 2017, Evan Stifel might be your guy. The rising senior has shown some steady improvement over the past two years and has slowly become one of the top cross country runners in the BIG 10.
Stifel's 2016 season started at the Commodore Classic where he finished a respectable, but unexciting 10th place overall. It wouldn't be until Pre-Nats where we would see him have his first big race of the season with a 23rd place finish. Stifel continued to get better throughout the postseason with a 7th place finish at BIG 10's and an 8th place finish at the Great Lakes Regional Championship. Yet, as fate would have it, Stifel barely missed qualifying for NCAA's and finished his cross country season as the first man out of Nationals.
Stifel may have received the short-end of the stick last season, but he will enter 2017 as the third best returner in both the BIG 10 and the Great Lakes region. Not only is this a guy who can make it to Nationals, but he will almost definitely be in the hunt for an All-American spot. Keep an eye out for this guy when championship season comes around.
#43 Cerake Geberkidane / Oklahoma State / Rs. Junior
For fans that just started following NCAA distance running, Geberkidane may be an unrecognizable name. That's because the rising redshirt junior sustained a long-term injury that held him out of not only the 2016 cross country season, but the ensuing indoor and outdoor track seasons as well.
Let's rewind to the 2015 cross country season where Geberkidane had a breakout year. As a sophomore, the Oklahoma State Cowboy took two early season wins at the Cowboy Jamboree and the Alabama Crimson Classic. Once in the post-season, he secured bronze at both BIG 12's and the Midwest Regional Championships. However, his performance at Nationals (where he placed 125th overall) was the only flaw in what was otherwise a brilliant cross country season.
Geberkidane is one of the best names in the BIG 12 and the Midwest region. Should he return to the fitness level we saw in 2015, then there is a very good chance that he could fight for the conference and regional titles. However, his lack of races due to a "long-term injury" is concerning and still leaves plenty of questions to be answered. Once I see that he is racing and healthy, expect Cerake to better his spot on our list.
#42 Emmanuel Rotich / Tulane / Junior
Emmanuel Rotich is a difficult name to place on this list mainly because of his meet selection throughout 2016. The Tulane program opted to compete in smaller races throughout the 2016 season which didn't give us the best gauge of just how good Rotich was.
Despite not racing in many high-profile meets, Rotich still racked up multiple wins during the 2016 season. Leading up to Nationals, Rotich never placed outside of the top three in any meet he competed in. In fact, Rotich even secured the South Central individual crown while Ole Miss and Arkansas battled for positioning in pursuit of the team title.
However, Rotich didn't quite meet expectations at NCAA's after placing 85th overall. Prior to Nationals, Rotich had only competed in one field that had more than 20 teams (the Memphis Twilight Classic which had 25).
His big-meet experience is a touch worrisome, but Rotich has still proven that he can get wins and challenge for top finishes. I also like the fact that Rotich found success in the steeplechase this past outdoor track season. In my mind, fitness in the steeplechase is the closest equivalent to fitness during cross country.
If Rotich can get more big meet experience and capitalize on his success from the spring, then don't be surprised to see him crack the top 30 names in our rankings.
#41 Gabe Arias-Sheridan / St. Mary's (Cal) / Senior
If we're being honest, I had never heard or read about Arias-Sheridan prior to this year's rankings. However, upon a closer inspection of his finishes, it became apparent to me that this is a guy who deserves some recognition and respect.
After a few early season rust-busters and a 5th place finish at the Stanford Invite, the St. Mary's Gael found success at the Santa Clara Bronco Invite as he secured the win by defeating the Texas Tech duo of Miguel Bautista and Benard Keter as well as UCLA's eventual All-American, Ferdinand Edman. It would be the last race before his postseason campaign began.
After a forgettable 10th place finish at the West Coast Conference Championships, Arias-Sheridan had the best race of his career with a 7th place finish at the West Regional Championships. His breakout performance would be enough to qualify him for Nationals where he would gain crucial big-meet experience.
Of course, it would have been easy to dismiss his regional performance as just a fluke. That's why it was particularly notable when Arias-Sheridan backed up his performance from West Regionals with a 47th place finish at NCAA's, which was only 7 spots away from All-American.
There isn't a whole lot I need in order to move Arias-Sheridan to a better position in our rankings. If he can continue to get wins, defeat other names in the Top 50, and improve on his finishes from last year, then there is no reason why he can't be a top 30 individual by the end of this season.