Updated: Aug 10, 2018
50. Erik Rotich, Eastern Kentucky (SR)
We can't help but acknowledge the glaring absence of now retired head coach Rick Erdmann. His ability to recruit and develop diverse talent has made EKU a respected program in the Southeast region. The last few years of Erdmann's tenure were arguably his most successful. Part of that success can be attributed to Erik Rotich, a Colonel veteran who has been a leader on this team for the past few seasons.
Rotich has a long, impressive resume. In 2015, he placed 24th at Wisconsin and was the OVC Champion. In 2016, Rotich was 11th at Notre Dame and 5th in the Southeast region. In 2017, he improved his Notre Dame finish by placing 8th and later finishing 24th at the Wisconsin Invite. Needless to say, Rotich has been a guy capable of being a legitimate low-stick scorer.
Despite his long list of superb finishes, Rotich has lacked the consistency needed to become an elite talent. In the two times he has qualified for the National Championships, he finished 90th and 105th. In 2016, he placed 78th at the Wisconsin Invite. Last fall, he was 11th in the Ohio Valley Conference Championships, a meet where he should have been at least top three.
There is no denying that Rotich is a top competitor in the Southeast region. He’s been a key runner who has helped EKU stay competitive. With that in mind, he’s unpredictable when he toes the line. You’re never sure what you’re going to get. I’ll be looking for Rotich to consecutively string together a series of strong races in order for him to improve in our rankings.
49. Cooper Teare, Oregon (SO)
48. Tanner Anderson, Washington (SR)*
*Anderson has since transferred to Washington*
Initially, it's hard to compare Teare and Anderson. There's a large age gap and they have sporadic finishes at different meets. However, when you put their resumes side-by-side, they match up rather well.
After starting the 2017 season with a rust-buster at the Dellinger Invite, the Oregon men set off for Pre-Nats. The loss of Edward Cheserek and the absence of Matthew Maton required someone to step up and secure a low finish. Naturally, veteran Tanner Anderson rose to the occasion and delivered a respectable 17th place finish. Teare would place 30th in the first big meet of his collegiate career. However, it seems like one meet was all the adjustment that Teare needed. The star freshman had a huge performance at PAC 12's by placing 9th while Anderson dropped to 22nd. The back and forth between Anderson and Teare continued at the West regional, this time with Anderson placing 6th and Teare falling to 23rd.
It wasn't until the National Championships where we saw the two Oregon Ducks finish within three places of each other. Teare would end his season with a strong 44th place finish while Anderson was one sport short of All-American (41st).
Clearly, staying consistent isn't the best racing aspect for either of these two. Still, they are both incredibly valuable scorers on the big stage. When one of these guys falters, the other steps up. Anderson carriers a lot of experience while Teare's youth gives him more up side. Together, they'll keep the Oregon Ducks competitive. It will be interesting to see how they handle the training regimen from newly hired coach Ben Thomas.
47. Euan Makepeace, Butler (JR)
One of the more interesting picks in our Top 50 is Butler's Euan Makepeace. Not only does he have a terrific name, but he's incredibly talented as well.
The fall of 2016 was when Makepeace began to establish himself as a contender in the NCAA. He was a postseason star who finished 3rd in the BIG East and 9th in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, he wouldn't qualify for Nationals.
Makepeace first gained recognition when he qualified for the Outdoor National Championships in the spring of 2017. Four months later, we got to see him make his season debut at the Commodore Classic. There, he would pull off a major upset by defeating Middle Tennessee State's Jacob Choge to take the win. Yet, just when things were looking up, Makepeace's season began to collapse. He was 87th at the Notre Dame Invite and 19th at the BIG East Championships before being shut down for the rest of the season.
It's still unclear as to what happened, but it's possible that Makepeace sustained an injury or illness of some sort. Not only did this suspected issue cause him to end his cross country season early, but he missed the entire winter and spring track seasons as well.
It's been nearly nine months since Makepeace last competed. Hopefully that time off was enough to get him the proper rest and recovery he needed. If he's healthy in 2018, he will almost certainly be a major factor in the BIG East and Great Lakes.
46. Morgan Beadlescomb, Michigan State (JR)
One of the more underrated distance runners in the NCAA is Morgan Beadlescomb. The rising junior has been a vital part of his Michigan State squad for the past few seasons. In 2018, he is primed for a breakout year.
What I like about Beadlescomb is that he's incredibly consistent, no matter the size of the race or the level of competition. Last fall, he was 6th at Roy Griak ahead of Colorado State studs like Cole Rockhold and Grant Fischer. His Wisconsin Invite performance was strong as well with a crucial 40th place finish which helped soften the Spartan's overall score after a poor showing from their 5th man.
Yet, what I really like about Beadlescomb is his ability to race well in the postseason. Despite his freshman year struggles in 2016, he still walked away from BIG 10's with an 18th place finish. It was the only race of the 2016 season where he finished within the top 100. Fast forward to 2017, and Beadlescomb was only getting better. Not only did he finish 5th at BIG 10's, but he repeated that 5th place performance at the Great Lakes regional two weeks later.
Beadlescomb would finish the season with a respectable, but unexciting 91st place finish at NCAA's. It would cap off an excellent three months of racing for the young sophomore.
Overall, his progression is exciting and he's clearly made a huge jump in his fitness over a short period of time. With veterans like Clark Ruiz and Max Benoit now out of the program, the Spartans will turn to Beadlescomb to fill the role as a true low-stick.
45. Casey Comber, Villanova (Rs. JR)
44. Andrew Marston, Villanova (Rs. JR)
What I love about this Villanova duo is that they are so close in talent that it's not really fair to place one ahead of the other. From a ranking standpoint, that makes things a little bit easier.
Since their freshmen year, Marston and Comber have been a vital part of the Wildcat roster. Not only have they been key scorers, but they've rarely had poor performances.
Comber began his 2017 season at Paul Short where he finished 8th overall. It wouldn't be until the Penn State National Invite where we saw Marston make his season debut. There, Marston earned silver behind Oklahoma State star Hassan Abdi. Comber would place 6th overall.
The BIG East Championships was where we saw Comber and Marston begin to hit their season peak. This time, it was Comber grabbing silver while Marston settled for bronze. Jonathan Green was the only man in the way of their title hopes. The Mid-Atlantic regional was essentially a replay of the BIG East Championships with the two races having the same exact top three.
The NCAA Championships was the first eye-opening test for any team that didn't race at the Wisconsin Invite or Pre-Nats. While some might see that as a disadvantage, the 'Nova duo held their own. Marston placed 55th overall while Comber finished 69th.
Admittedly, the BIG East and Mid-Atlantic region aren't as competitive when you compare them to other conferences and regions. Still, both Marston and Comber have made the most out of their collegiate racing careers. It's almost unheard of for either of these two to have an "off day" and when they do, it's still pretty darn good. They may not grab a lot of attention, but don't sleep on this duo in 2018.
43. Garrett Reynolds, UCLA (JR)
One of the more pleasant surprises of the 2017 season was the emergence of Garrett Reynolds. As a sophomore, he was a key scorer for the Bruins who graduated multiple senior scorers over the past two years.
During the regular season and throughout most of the postseason, Reynolds was another low-stick who stayed competitive in nearly every meet he toed the line for. His breakout race came at Roy Griak where he ran a brilliant second half of the race to finish 2nd ahead of teammate Robert Brandt. The Wisconsin Invite was proof that Reynolds was no joke. His 33rd place finish validated his Roy Griak performance and proved that he could handle the big stage. Reynolds continued to give UCLA more low-stick finishes in the postseason with back-to-back 14th place finishes at PAC 12's and the West regional. Unfortunately, NCAA's was the only sub-par race of Reynolds' 2017 season with a 121st place finish.
Aside from Nationals, you can't help but like what Garrett Reynolds has done. The Bruins greatly benefitted from having a runner who was not only consistent, but could secure a low score as well. With two years of experience under his belt, Reynolds could join teammate Robert Brandt in an even higher tier of fitness.
42. Jaret Carpenter, Purdue (JR)
Jaret Carpenter has caught my eye since he was a freshman. The rising junior is an incredibly gifted runner who has been a BIG 10 contender since he entered the collegiate ranks. After completing a strong spring track season, Carpenter has shown that he has the capability of becoming one of the best distance runners in the conference and region.
Our conversation goes back to 2016 when Carpenter was just a freshman. After a series of races during the regular season, the Purdue Boilermaker found his groove in the postseason by placing 16th at BIG 10's and 7th at Great Lakes. That 7th place finish was enough to earn him a trip to Nationals.
The 2017 season had it's fair share of success as well. After a rocky start at the Louisville Classic (where he placed 32nd), Carpenter would place 32nd again two weeks later, this time at the far more competitive Wisconsin Invite meet.
Once again, the postseason was where Carpenter began to shine. He was 7th at the BIG 10 Championships and 9th in the Great Lakes region. However, his 9th place finish wasn't enough to get him to Nationals. Carpenter would have to end his season two weeks early.
The sting of not making the National Championships last year will almost certainly fuel the fire for Carpenter's 2018 season. After running 13:44 for 5k this past spring, it's clear that his fitness is at another level. I think it's fair to say that Carpenter will need to improve his regular season performances if he wants to climb up (or I guess down) our rankings. Still, this guy is a clutch postseason performer who has the capability to be a true ace for Purdue this fall (if he's not already).
41. Aaron Templeton, Furman (Rs. SR)
The Furman cross country squad will enter the 2018 cross country season without numerous scorers from last fall. Despite their loss of established scorers, Aaron Templeton looks like an exciting returner who could give the Paladins a true, standout ace.
Templeton’s 2017 season was easily the best of his career. His 7th place finish at Louisville was a pleasant surprise and was later validated by his phenomenal 20th place finish at the Wisconsin Invite. After winning the Southern Conference title, Templeton finished 5th in the Southeast region ahead of distance stars like Brent Demarest (Virginia), Lachlan Cook (Virginia), Peter Seufer (Virginia Tech), and Jacob Thomson (Kentucky). Unfortunately, the Cinderella season came to halt at the NCAA Championships when Templeton finished 141st.
A bad race at Nationals isn’t exactly ideal, but the entirety of his 2017 season showed us that Templeton is a legitimate national contender. There’s a lot to like about this redshirt senior and we might even be undermining him at the 41st spot.
In 2018, Templeton will begin his revenge campaign to become an All-American. If I’m his competitors, I wouldn’t want to be in his path.