2017 NCAA DI Cross Country Men’s National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – Like six national championship teams before it, Northern Arizona is No. 1 in the NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country Preseason National Coaches’ Poll.
Dating back to 2010 when Oklahoma State won the team title and was ranked No. 1 the following preseason, every team that held the championship trophy high above its head on the podium was projected to win it once again the next year.
That shouldn’t be a surprise with the roster NAU has coming back to Flagstaff, Arizona. The Lumberjacks return five of the seven athletes who helped them win the NCAA title in Terre Haute, Indiana, including three All Americans in Matthew Baxter (11th), Tyler Day (23rd) and Andy Trouard (37th) – but won’t have Futsum Zienasellassie (fourth at NCAAs last year), who graduated in the spring. NAU nabbed seven first-place votes from the coaches.
Stanford and Syracuse finished No. 2 and No. 3 at NCAAs last year and that’s exactly where they’ll start the 2017 season, respectively.
The Cardinal will be led by Grant Fisher, who finished fifth in cross country and later won the NCAA 5000-meter crown outdoors this past June. Fisher will be joined by the likes of Steven Fahy, Jack Keelan, Alex Ostberg, Sam Wharton as well as Thomas Ratcliffe. Stanford received three first-place votes from the coaches.
One look at the Orange reveals they’ll be happy to see Justyn Knight in the scoring lineup again. He finished runner-up to Patrick Tiernan in Terre Haute last year and had a strong track season culminating in a berth in the 5000-meter final at the IAAF World Championships. Knight will be joined by 2016 All American Colin Bennie (17th) and Philo Germano (49th).
Arkansas comes in at No. 4 and is one of two teams from the Southeastern Conference in the top-30 to begin the season (Ole Miss is the other at No. 18). This is the highest the Razorbacks have been ranked in the preseason since 2006 when they were tabbed second under legendary coach John McDonnell. Arkansas returns a pair of All Americans from last year – Alex George and Jack Bruce – and another was right outside the pack as well (Cameron Griffith, 48th).
Colorado rounds out the top-5 and this marks the sixth year in a row that Mark Wetmore’s team has been in the top-5 to begin the season. The Buffs lost four-time All American Ben Saarel to graduation, but feature two-time All American John Dressel and Joe Klecker, who nabbed All-America status during his freshman season last year. Colorado earned the final first-place vote from the coaches.
No. 6 BYU, No. 7 Wisconsin, No. 8 Iona, No. 9 Oregon and No. 10 Oklahoma State are all top-10 mainstays year in and year out. All five of those programs suffered losses due to athletes exhausting eligibility, but none bigger than the Ducks’ losing Edward Cheserek.
Washington State is ranked No. 11 and that’s the first time that program has been in the top-30 at the start of the season since 2012. This is also the Cougars’ first time ranked 11th or higher since 1998 when they were 10th in the preseason.
Four teams that weren’t ranked in the final poll of the 2016 season join this one – Furman at No. 17, Eastern Michigan at No. 22, Virginia Tech at No. 26 and Columbia at No. 29. This is the first time the Eagles have been ranked in the top-30 to begin the season since 2012 and the highest the Hokies have been ranked in program history this early.
It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the Pac-12 had the most teams ranked in the top-30 with five, compared to four from the ACC and three from both the Big Ten and Big 12.