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XC Top 25 Teams: #15 Colorado State Rams

By: John Cusick

The battle for the state of Colorado never seems to get any easier. Last year saw both the Colorado Buffaloes and Colorado State finish among the top 10 teams in the nation. How feasible is repeating that performance in the year 2018? Let’s first look at the Rams 2017 season.

The Rams began their season at a home meet (CSU Duals) where the faced off against Air Force, Wyoming, Northern Colorado, and the men from Colorado University. Although Colorado State didn't run their full A squad, they were looking to find individuals who could potentially fill the second half of their varsity lineup.

The Rams were led by a handful of underclassmen who will be returning this upcoming season. Trent Powell had a breakout performance and finished 2nd overall behind only Ethan Gonzalez, but ahead of Eduardo Herrera and Joe Klecker (although they may not have been running all-out).

Satchell Caldwell finished 11th while Forrest Barton (18th), Andrew Forsyth (19th) and Jacob Brueckman (24th) rounded out the scoring five for the Rams. While this meet was no real indicator of how powerful the CSU team could actually be, it showed that the Rams had potential stability for the next few years.

The Rams really made their presence known when they headed to Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational. After the race was all said and done, Colorado State had done enough to fend off valiant efforts from the likes of Michigan State and UCLA. Led by senior Jerrell Mock (who won the race) it was clear that something was in the work at Fort Collins. Teammate Cole Rockhold finished in 8th place while Eric Hamer and Grant Fischer finished 10th and 11th overall.

Wayde Hall solidified the team victory finishing 17th, seven spots ahead of UCLA’s fifth runner and nine spots ahead of Michigan State’s. At this point, the Rams looked like they were in the top-tier of teams capable of competing for a national title in November.

The Rams’ next contest was at the Nuttycombe Invite where the competition would be far greater. Once again, Mock was the low-stick for the Rams as he finished 16th. Rockhold held onto his second scoring spot after finishing 27th.

The drop-off for CSU at this point was at the final three scoring positions as Hamer finished 50th, Fischer 61st, and Hall 70th. Together, those finishes ultimately led to them scoring 224 points as a team and finishing 6th behind the likes of NAU, Portland, Syracuse, Stanford and Furman. Although they failed to crack the top five, they did notch wins over Southern Utah, Michigan, UCLA, and Michigan State, giving them more credibility in their probable bid to Nationals.

Next up on the docket for the Rams was their conference meet. The Mountain West is no PAC 12, but it holds a number of high-quality cross country teams such as Boise State, Air Force, and Utah State. Despite the respectable competition, Colorado State cruised through meet, placing 1-2-5-8-15 in a title-winning route (with a total of 31 points).

With so many Kolas points already secured, the urgency to produce an overwhelmingly strong result at the Mountain Regional Championships simply wasn't there.

To no surprise, Mock continued his successful season with a 6th place finish while Fischer moved up from his routine fourth scoring position and finished second for the Rams in 10th overall. Rockhold placed 14th while Powell (mentioned earlier at the CSU Duals) returned to the lineup and finished as the number four runner in 34th.

Powell's reentry into the top seven had a trickle-down effect as Hamer (39th) moved to the fifth spot and Hall (the normal number five) fell out of scoring position by placing 41st. The Rams finished in 4th as a team with a total of 103 points, 23 points back from Colorado, 24 from BYU, and more than 50 behind NAU. The Rams may have held back a bit to prep for the national meet, but it also felt like a missed opportunity to display their true level of talent.

So, what did they do? They proceeded to go out and electrify the Louisville course.

Rockhold's consistency finally paid off as he finished 32nd overall to become an All-American. Fischer was second in 58th while Hamer and Hall finished under the 100th place plateau in 90th and 93rd, respectively. The final scorer (Carson Hume) completed CSU's top five in 111th.

Of course, there was one glaring miss in Colorado State's lineup. Mock had finished 169th after falling apart in the final mile, a clear disappointment based on prior performances. Had he finished where he was projected to, we could be talking about a podium-worthy squad.

Coach Siemers' squad walked away as the 9th place team at Nationals, their best finish since 1978. It may not have been what they wanted, but they proved that they didn't have to rely on a single runner to be successful.

So...where does that leave us for this upcoming year? Let's take a look.

The Rams clearly take a big hit by graduating low-stick Jerrell Mock as well as supporting scorers Grant Fischer and Wayde Hall. Together, those three will leave significant gaps in the lineup for the underclassmen to fill.

Luckily, Colorado State still has Cole Rockhold who should be the clear number one runner for the Rams during the 2018 season. After a successful cross country season, he carried his momentum onto the indoor and outdoor ovals. He earned All-American honors in the mile during the indoor season and later ran a 13:40 PR during outdoors.

Hamer should be the number two runner for the Rams as he, like Rockhold, will be back for his senior year. Placing 10th at Roy Griak is a no-joke performance and a very encouraging sign if he can become a bit more consistent. After seeing him secure a 10k PR of 29:38 this past spring, it's clear that he has the potential to be a low-stick scorer for the Rams this fall.

Trent Powell was one of Colorado State's most underrated weapons that they didn't take full advantage of last fall. He was 3rd in the Open section at the Wisconsin Invite before being promoted to the varsity lineup. Eventually, he would become a key scorer for this squad throughout the postseason. As he enters 2018, expect Coach Siemers to make the most out of Powell's high-ceiling.

We didn’t talk much about Hume during the 2017 season, but he wasn't too far off from the other scorers on this squad. He made the occasional appearance in their top five and put together some consistent performances. After running personal bests of 8:05 and 14:03 this past spring, it's clear that he'll be someone to watch on this team.

That leaves us with four athletes (all seniors by the way) who should be solid scoring pieces for the Rams. The rest of the squad is still a bit unclear, but the lineup options are nearly limitless for Coach Siemers.

If you're looking for experienced runners, Jacob Brueckman and Satchell Caldwell may be interesting names to keep an eye on. They made appearances in CSU's top seven last fall and have been kept in the development phase for the past few years.

However, the best option may come out of Colorado State's recruiting class. They have a slew of young talent with personal bests in the low 15 minutes for 5000 meters. The star of this class is Michael Mooney, the high school stud who ran 8:50 this past spring to finish second at the legendary Arcadia two-mile. With that level of fitness, it would be surprising to see the Rams sideline him in favor of other scorers.

The Rams may have lost their low-stick and two key scorers, but a veteran group of runners led by Rockhold creates a unique opportunity that has been building since Coach Siemers first took over six years ago. Given the success within those first six years, we shouldn't be surprised to see another top ten finish from the Colorado State Rams in 2018.


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