Ever since The Stride Report launched three and half months ago, there has been a tab in the rankings section labeled XC Top 25 Teams with a simple caption that says "Coming This July". Now July is finally here and we can finally begin our rankings!
Due to certain teams not yet having published rosters for 2017, we have decided to switch our dates for the Rankings. Instead of the XC Top 25 Teams, we will be doing the XC Top 50 Individuals starting this Sunday! The rankings will come out in groups of 10, leaving us with five total days of our rankings.
Commonly Asked Questions About The Rankings
"What do you base these rankings on?"
These rankings are based on a variety of factors such as experience, consistency, performances at big meets, past performances, improvement, and potential. Occasionally, track times do play a role when ranking certain individuals. However, I typically try to emphasize that track and cross country are two very different sports. Great track times do not always equal great cross country performances.
"Will you be updating these rankings throughout the season? If so, how often?"
I will be updating these rankings every week based on new results. There are some weeks where there are very few significant cross country meets happening. These weeks typically result in no change to the rankings. If you include the weeks without change, as well as the preseason rankings, there are approximately 11 to 12 weekly rankings.
"Why is Person A ranked ahead of Person B, even though Person B beat Person A in a race?"
As I mentioned in the first question, these rankings are based on multiple races and a variety of different factors. Collectively, we look at the entire season and base our rankings off of recent trends shown by an individual. Just because someone had one bad race does not mean they should kicked off the list entirely. There is (almost) always a chance at redemption.
"My favorite runner (didn't compete / had a great race) this past weekend, but he moved backwards in the rankings. Why is that?"
Most of the time, I try to reward athletes in the rankings for having a great race. Unfortunately for them, there are a lot of great athletes that are constantly improving. In this scenario, if someone has moved back in the rankings, it is simply because there isn't enough room at the top. Not all regressions in the rankings are intended to be negative.
JUST MISS / HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no order)
Andrew Marston / Villanova / Rs. Sophomore
In 2016, Marston raced seven times and placed outside of the top 10 only twice. Once at the Penn State Open (13th) and once at NCAA's (146th).
Marston has clearly learned how to navigate a smaller field of competitors. If he can show improvement at larger venues like the ones mentioned above, then don't be surprised to see him make it on to the Top 50 this season...
Colby Gilbert / Washington / Rs. Senior
It's tough to exactly gauge what Gilbert is capable of doing in cross country. As a sophomore in 2015, Gilbert became an All-American after not racing in a regular season invitational for the entirety of the season.
Unfortunately, 2016 did not show the same success. After two early wins and a top five finish at the Washington Invite, Gilbert struggled at big meets like Wisconsin, PAC 12's, and West Regionals. He failed to qualify for Nationals at both the individual and team levels.
Which Colby Gilbert will we see in 2017? He had great success this past indoor track season, but then disappeared during outdoor track. The inconsistency leaves too many questions for him to be on the list at the moment.
Iliass Aouani / Syracuse / Junior
If there was a #51 on the list, it would most likely go to Iliass Aouani. Before arriving to Syracuse in 2016, Aouani had great success at Lamar as he became a southern distance running star. Although he still saw success at Syracuse with a 6th place finish at ACC's and a 7th place finish at Northeast Regionals, Aouani struggled with consistency. He finished 86th at Wisconsin and 126th at NCAA's.
Lachlan Cook / Virginia / Sophomore
The ACC freshman of the year was a key reason why the Virginia Cavaliers were able to stay competitive in 2016 despite losing Henry Wynne. Cook had his first breakout performance at the Penn State Open where he was 7th overall. An 11th and 12th place finish at ACC's and Southeast regionals showed just how good this kid could be in the future.
Cook was awfully close to making the list, but finishing 103rd at NCAA's shows that he still needs to gain experience on the big stage. In addition to NCAA's, the ACC and Southeast region weren't quite as strong as they have been in the past. I would like to see if he can replicate his performances at those meets in 2017.
Grant Fischer / Colorado State / Rs. Senior
It's tough to exactly pin-point a specific breakout performance for Fischer last fall. Overall he was very consistent and had respectable finishes at the biggest meets around the country (he placed 30th at Wisconsin). His steady improvement throughout the past two track seasons has led me to believe that this will be a guy capable of breaking into the Top 50.
Michael Ward / Bradley / Rs. Senior
One of the most under-appreciated programs in NCAA D1 XC is Bradley University. The Braves have been on the rise for the past two years and they have been led by their ace, Michael Ward. Ward and his teammates have entered some of the toughest meets that the nation has to offer and Ward has stepped up every time without fail.
Ward placed 21st at Norte Dame, 16th at Pre Nats, was runner-up to Reed Fischer at his conference championship, and finished 9th in an underrated Midwest Region. He eventually capped off his season by placing 71st in his first-ever National Championship. It doesn't matter where he's running, he will show up and contend.
If it's not already obvious, I am a big fan of Michael Ward. He represents all of the underdogs who deserve some recognition. However, if Ward wants to get into our Top 50, he'll need to lower some of those finishes and defeat some of the better-known names in the NCAA.
Jonathan Harper / BYU / Senior
With an 18th place finish at Wisconsin, Harper should be in the Top 50 conversation. However, aside from Wisconsin, BYU didn't face any truly difficult competition until Regionals and Nationals. After a solid, but average 20th place finish in the Mountain Region, Harper placed 101st at NCAA's leaving fans like myself looking for more.
Chase Weaverling / Virginia / Senior
In 2015, Chase Weaverling steadily improved, became a competitive name in a very strong ACC field, and was just a few spots shy of All-American in his first National Championship performance. In 2016, he was not able to improve upon those performances. He also struggled at the NCAA meet where he placed 181st overall.
It's difficult to know which way Weaverling is trending and whether or not we should expect an improvement out of him this season. I need to see some consistent performances as well as some improvement before I can put him in the Top 50.
Zach Perrin / Colorado / Senior
After a runner-up performance at the Rocky Mountain Shootout and an odd pack-running exercise at Pre Nats, Perrin threw down the best performance of his cross country career by placing 4th overall at PAC 12's and helping Colorado secure the conference title (where they were underdogs).
Yet, as so many do, Perrin struggled to run well at Nationals with a sub-par finish of 125th overall. It may have been a fluke, but without a truly significant performance at Pre Nats or Regionals, I'm still looking for Perrin to do more.
Thomas Ratcliffe / Stanford / Rs. Freshman
In his first cross country race ever, Ratcliffe ran 23:17 at the Stanford Invite, making him the 5th fastest individual in meet history. The four others ahead of him? Sean McGorty, Chris Derrick, Joe Rosa, and Maksim Korolev. That is some good company to be in. Ratcliffe also put up an excellent 8th place finish at PAC 12's which continued to excite fans about this potential.
Despite two great performances, Ratcliffe is not shown in the results for Regionals nor Nationals. Why did Coach Milt not run him? Did he get hurt?
I may not be a big fan of using track times to gauge cross country fitness, but Ratcliffe's 7:53 3k this past winter (unattached) tells me that he's right on track to follow in Grant Fisher's footsteps.
It's easy to get excited about Ratcliffe when you hear about all that he has done. However, this is a guy who has yet to race at Regionals and Nationals. He could very easily make the Top 50 this season (and I think he will), but I'm going to hold out on doing so until I see his name at the top of the results.
*EDITORS NOTE: The initial publishing of this article incorrectly stated that Thomas Ratcliffe did not run attached last cross country season. That has since been edited. Thank you to the reader who corrected our mistake!