40. Luis Grijalva, Northern Arizona (SO)
In 2018, Northern Arizona has a chance to win their third straight national title and establish themselves as a true dynasty. Rising sophomore Luis Grijalva could become responsible for two of those (potentially) three titles.
As just a freshman, Grijalva instantly became a scorer on a loaded squad last fall. His 10th place finish at the Louisville Classic was overshadowed by his teammates taking the top four spots in the meet. It would take a 21st place finish at the Wisconsin Invite for fans around the NCAA to realize the potential this young star had. After finishing 8th at the BIG Sky Championships (and resting at the Mountain regional), Grijalva toed the line for his first National Championship. His 60th place finish wasn't enough for All-American, but it showed that he was capable of holding his own on the country's biggest stage.
Placing 21st at the Wisconsin Invite as a true freshman should have garnered more of a reaction than it did. Or at least to the same extent that it did when Conor Lundy finished 19th in 2016. Regardless, it's clear that Grijalva is a Top 50 talent and his continuous improvement during the spring is encouraging. He's still young, but having a year of experience should do wonders for him in 2018.
39. Eduardo Herrera, Colorado (SO)
We continue our rankings with another stud sophomore. As a true freshman, Eduardo Herrera proved to be a valuable piece of Colorado's arsenal. With John Dressel out for the season with an injury, Herrera stepped up and became a big-time scorer.
After a rust-buster at the CSU Duals, Herrera's first true collegiate race would be at the Notre Dame Invite. His 10th place finish was enough to defeat established names like Ben Flanagan, Alex Rogers, and Mickey Davey. As if that wasn't enough, Herrera would go on to place 14th at Pre-Nats. We continued to see even more success from the young Buff at PAC 12's after he placed 10th overall.
After a quiet 25th place finish in the Mountain regional, Herrera had the best race of his season at Nationals. He finished 33rd overall, became an All-American, and was Colorado's top scorer. Not bad for a rookie...
It's clear that Herrera is truly one of the best runners on the western side of the United States. He's proven that he can perform in some of the biggest meets that the nation has to offer and he steps up when his teammates struggle. Colorado could have a scary good 1-2-3 punch between Herrera, Klecker, and Dressel (if he's healthy) this fall.
38. Emmanuel Rotich, Tulane (SR)
Fun fact: Emmanuel Rotich was undefeated in cross country races heading into the 2017 NCAA Championships. The catch? He was racing in the "Open" sections of large invites rather than the "Invite" sections.
Throughout 2016 and 2017 seasons, the Tulane coaching staff has opted to keep Rotich away from elite competition and allow him to dominate smaller races. The tactic seems to work through regionals, but it has clearly not helped Rotich in the one meet that matters the most (NCAA's). In 2016, he placed 85th at the Nationals Championships and in 2017, he placed 191st.
There is no denying that Rotich is a talented runner. Between his times, wins, and multiple South Central titles, he definitely deserves a spot in our Top 50. Despite his accolades, he has yet to secure that coveted All-American status (during any season) in the five National Championship races he has competed in. He'll have an opportunity to better his ranking throughout the season, but NCAA's will be the main focus.
37. Miler Haller, Boise State (Rs. JR)
You never know what you're going to get with Boise State. Last fall, the Broncos had three different individuals lead the scoring for their team. Of those three, Haller was the most consistent and produced the best results.
Haller began his season with a strong 12th place finish at the Louisville Classic. His Wisconsin Invite performance, however, was not as pretty after he placed 63rd overall. Luckily, the postseason would treat Haller well. He was 6th in the Mountain West Championships and 8th in the West region. He would pull off an excellent 36th place finish to become an All-American for the first time in his career at Nationals.
It's clear that Haller is a valuable scorer. With the exception of his race at Wisconsin, Haller provided crucial low-stick points in every meet he toed the line for. Having clutch postseason finishes gives him an edge in the rankings that not too many other runners have.
36. John Dressel, Colorado (SR)
I think most would agree that Dressel is better than 36th. However, a nagging injury took him the entirety of the 2017-2018 academic year to recover from. As of right now, we don't know the full status of Dressel's health other than he's training again. By mid-October, the five-time All-American will most likely be rounding back into his old fitness. However, until we see that happen, we are staying cautious and keeping him at 36th.
35. Conner Mantz, BYU (Rs. SO)
34. Clayton Young, BYU (Rs. SR)
You'll have to excuse my uncertainty with the eligibility of BYU's athletes. Between their mission trips and redshirts, it's difficult to pinpoint the official eligibility status of some of these runners. That, however, won't change the fact that these two Cougars are some of the best talents in the nation.
After a two year mission trip, Conner Mantz has returned to BYU. Although it took him some time to get back into shape, his fitness has clearly elevated to an entirely new level. After a relatively quiet spring track season, Mantz unleashed a plethora of personal bests including a 13:52 5k and a 28:57 10k. We didn't see Mantz during cross country, but I think it's fair to say that his performances on the track warrant a spot in our Top 50.
As for Clayton Young, he has emerged as a key leader on a loaded BYU team. Admittedly, last fall wasn't a fair representation of his true talent. After wining the Dellinger Invite and placing 12th at Pre-Nats, Young quietly finished 27th in the Mountain region. He would struggle at the National Championships and place 105th overall.
While I'm sure his race at NCAA's was disappointing, I think most reasonable fans would look at the first two meets of his season and understand that he is better than 105th. In fact, his personal bests on the track make him one of the best distance runners in the nation. With PR's of 13:37 and 28:27, it's clear that Young is a weapon in BYU's arsenal that never got to show off his true potential. That will surely change this fall.
With Casey Clinger now gone for his mission trip, Mantz is the perfect replacement in BYU's lineup. He's still young and has tremendous upside. As for Young, he'll most likely translate his success on the track to the grass.
Together, these two have a lot of scoring potential.
33. Kigen Chemadi, Mid. Tenn. State (SR)
For the past few seasons, Jacob Choge has captured most of the attention for Middle Tennessee State. However, Kigen Chemadi has been just as good over the past year. When paired with Choge, he gives Middle Tennessee State one of the best 1-2 punches in the country.
We have to confess that Chemadi's first half of the 2017 season wasn't anything mind-blowing. He was 3rd at the Commodore Classic, 28th at the Louisville Classic, and 7th at the Crimson Classic. However, it was the postseason where we began to see his true potential.
Chemadi placed 2nd at the Conference USA Championships and finished 5th in the South Regional Championships ahead of Sean Tobin, Nahom Solomon, and Edwin Kurgat (among others). However, it was his performance at NCAA's that helped boost his resume. Chemadi's 23rd place finish gave him the first All-American honor of his career and was 11 spots better than his teammate Jacob Choge.
We didn't see Chemadi race during the spring track season, but it's fair to say that he'll be a major factor this fall. His regular season performances do need to improve, but they will also be great opportunities for Chemadi to better his ranking in our Top 50.
32. Mickey Davey, Air Force (SR)
Air Force has consistently been one of the most underrated programs in the NCAA. Josh Kerr and Colorado State attract most of the attention out of the Mountain West conference while Colorado, NAU, and BYU steal the headlines in the Mountain region. However, Mickey Davey will have a chance to keep Air Force at the top of the results in 2018.
Davey began the 2017 season by placing 15th at the Notre Dame Invite. He followed that up with a strong 30th place finish at Wisconsin. Davey would continue his string of underrated performances by placing 9th in the Mountain West Championships and a big 8th place finish in the Mountain regional. However, it was his National Championship race that truly highlighted his season. Davey would finish 18th overall and comfortably become an All-American for the first time in his collegiate career.
Not only did Davey have a monster race in the biggest meet of the season, but he never had an "off" day. He maintained solid performances throughout last fall and only got better in the postseason. Davey had a great regular season, but I would like to see some of those finishes improve. If he can do that, there is no limit for the Air Force ace in our rankings.
31. Peter Seufer, Virginia Tech (SR)
Organizing names between 40th and 31st is usually the most difficult part of these rankings. Seufer was a name that consistently bounced around our Top 50. However, his resume looked best suited for the 31st spot.
The fall of 2017 was a breakout season for Peter Seufer who found himself as one of the top runners in the ACC and Southeast region. After a respectable, but quiet 15th place finish at the Louisville Classic, Seufer had the race of his life at Pre-Nats with a runner-up finish. He would defeat superstar names like Amon Kemboi, Jonathan Green, Dillon Maggard, and Joe Klecker (to name a few).
The rest of Seufer's season was strong, but it never quite matched his Pre-Nats performance. He was 7th at ACC's and 9th in the Southeast region. He would end his season five spots out from All-American with a 45th place finish.
Seufer may not have matched his performance from Pre-Nats, but when you finish runner-up that's an incredibly hard thing to do. The rising senior still had a terrific season and gave the Hokies a consistent low-stick to lean on throughout the entirety of last fall.
It will be interesting to see how Seufer handles the loss of head coach Ben Thomas in 2018. Will he and the rest of his Virginia Tech teammates thrive under Eric Johannigmeier? We can only wait and find out...