2021 NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Preseason
NEW ORLEANS – Cross country is back … where it belongs!
Here is the first NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll of the 2021 fall season, which was released on Tuesday afternoon by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (We probably don’t need to say “fall season,” but there was a “spring season” a.k.a. the delayed 2020 campaign earlier this year, after all).
NCAA Division I — Men's Cross Country
This Week's National Top Five
Cross Country Polls & Rankings
Defending champion Northern Arizona is a near-unanimous No. 1 in the first edition of the National Coaches’ Poll, earning 10 of 11 first-place votes. The Lumberjacks lead second-ranked Notre Dame (1 FPV), third-ranked BYU, fourth ranked Oregon and fifth-ranked Stanford in a Mountain and West Region-dominant national top-5.
NAU returns five athletes from their championship team this past March, including two top-10 finishers in Nico Young (fourth) and Abdihamid Nur (seventh). Nur had a sensational outdoor season for the Lumberjacks, finishing third in the final of the 10,000 meters at the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in a PR of 27:42.73. With Nur, Young and the addition of Nebraska transfer George Kusche, who won the individual title at the 2020 Big Ten Cross Country Championships, NAU will have a stout top-3 at the front of the pack once again.
The Irish, who finished a game runner-up this past spring, return each of their top-6 runners from that squad, who all happened to be All-Americans – Danny Kilrea (10th), Dylan Jacobs (20th), Andrew Alexander (21st), Jake Renfree (22nd), Yared Nuguse (23rd) and Joshua Methner (36th). Very few teams were able to match that kind of pack running at the NCAA meet on a tough course in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Notre Dame also added Penn transfer Anthony Russo, who has a sub-29:00 PR over 10,000 meters, among others.
The Cougars, who finished seventh this past spring, welcome back all seven of their athletes from that squad, including individual champion Conner Mantz and 13th-place finisher Casey Clinger. Mantz continued to shine outdoors, earning runner-up honors in the final of the 10,000 meters at the 2021 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 27:42.46 (That just missed his PR of 27:41.16 that he ran in mid-May). As usual, BYU added a strong freshman class and mixes in several athletes who returned from missions in the past year.
The Ducks didn’t compete as a team at #NCAAXC this past spring and instead, focused on track & field, where they won the indoor title and finished second outdoors. A potentially loaded roster should make Oregon a title contender in both a tough West Region and at the national level. Not only could the Ducks return the likes of Cole Hocker, Charlie Hunter, Jackson Mestler and Cooper Teare, among others, but they also added Cincinnati transfer Aaron Bienenfeld, who finished 16th this past spring and dropped his PR over 10,000 meters to 28:10.95.
The Cardinal, which finished just off the podium this past spring in fifth, return six of the seven athletes who comprised that squad, including two All-Americans in Charles Hicks (14th) and Cole Sprout (15th). Hicks and Sprout, as well as Ky Robinson (46th), were part of several über-talented freshman classes for Stanford in the past few years, which bolstered the program. The Cardinal added several more dynamic freshmen in 2021-22 and feature several hungry upperclassmen, like DJ Principe.
Here are the rest of the top-10 teams in the preseason: No. 6 Arkansas, No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Tulsa, No. 9 Butler and No. 10 Iona. Both the Cowboys and the Razorbacks have loaded, veteran rosters, returning all seven athletes that helped both to podium finishes this past spring (It should also be mentioned that the Gaels welcome back all seven runners as well). The sky is also the limit for the Bulldogs, who own their best rank in program history thanks to a strong lineup that features Barry Keane and Remi Schyns, who both came into their own on the track.
Mark your calendar for Saturday, November 20, as that will be the date of the 2021 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, held at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. This will be the first time in history that the meet will be contested in Florida.