2020 NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Week 1
NEW ORLEANS – The reign atop the NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll continues for Northern Arizona.
For the 30th consecutive week, the Lumberjacks headline the NCAA Division I index, which was released for the first time during the 2020-21 season on Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). Even though NAU finished runner-up to BYU at the 2019 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships, those final rankings don’t reflect in the National Coaches’ Poll due to there not being a vote conducted to determine said slots.
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Speaking of those defending champion Cougars, they sit No. 2 in the initial poll, right ahead of No. 3 Arkansas, while No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Oklahoma State round out the top-5.
Three of those top-5 programs squared off against each other two weeks ago at the OSU Invitational: No. 1 Northern Arizona, No. 2 BYU and No. 5 Oklahoma State. It was run on the same course that should welcome hordes of NCAA Division I athletes come March 15 when the rescheduled 2020 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships are held.
The Lumberjacks, behind an individual victory by reigning National Athlete of the Week Luis Grijalva, posted a six-point win over the Cowboys, 36-42. NAU and Oklahoma State were actually tied through four runners at 25-all, but Drew Bosley gave the Flagstaff-based squad the win as he crossed the finish line 15th, six spots ahead of Ryan Schoppe. (NOTE: Unattached athletes from BYU and Colorado also competed and if they were worked into the team scoring … NAU 43, BYU 50, Oklahoma State 51)
It was a strong showing for the Lumberjacks, who return six of their seven athletes from the runner-up squad last year. In addition to Grijalva, NAU has two All-Americans back in the fold in Drew Bosley and Abdihamid Nur, as well as a talented recruiting class headlined by 2019 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year Nico Young.
The Cougars brandished a potent 1-2 punch at the top of their lineup two weeks ago: Conner Mantz finished runner-up with Casey Clinger not too far behind in third. Mantz is the top returning finisher in the nation from the 2019 NCAA meet (third), while Clinger certainly hit the ground running after a two-year mission to Japan. Outside of Mantz and Clinger – both of whom were already All-Americans in their career – BYU expects big things from Brandon Garnica and Matt Owens – both of whom finished right on the cusp of the top-40 in 2019 – and a host of other talented individuals, namely the 16th-place finisher in Stillwater, freshman Zack Ericksen.
The Razorbacks, who return to the top-5 for the first time since 2017 and the top-3 for the first time since 2006, are flush with new talent and have looked formidable in two meets so far this season. Campbell transfer and three-time All-American Amon Kemboi led Arkansas two weeks ago at the UAB Blazer Classic with an individual title, while Louisville transfer Emmanuel Cheboson and NJCAA star Andrew Kibet provide the squad with depth. The Razorbacks won the SEC Preview by eight points over Ole Miss back in September and then beat those same Rebels by 21 points at the UAB Blazer Classic with a 13-second spread between their first (Kemboi) and fifth runner (Gilbert Boit).
Despite losing three key athletes from their 2019 squad – All-Americans Steven Fahy and Alex Ostberg, in particular – Stanford is projected to contend for a podium spot in March. The Cardinal is no stranger to finishing among the top-4 programs at the NCAA meet, having done so four times in the past six years. Two-time All-American Alek Parsons is Stanford’s top returning athlete with a host of newcomers to the squad ready to make an impact once they start competing in the spring.
Oklahoma State owns its best ranking since 2015, when it was listed among the top-5 teams four times. Isai Rodriguez appears to be in fine form again, posting strong efforts in back-to-back meets to begin the season. Rodriguez is just two years removed from finishing fourth at the NCAA meet as a freshman. Alex Maier, Ryan Schoppe, Victor Shitsama and Ryan Smeeton have provided the Cowboys with additional firepower during the fall segment.
Notre Dame comes in at No. 6 for its best ranking since 2005. The Irish have competed once this season at the Irish Classic and swept the proceedings against Louisville. Yared Nuguse picked up the individual win with Andrew Alexander and Dylan Jacobs not too far behind. 2018 All-American Danny Kilrea, who earned that honor as a freshman, finished fifth here and is primed for a rebound from a tough sophomore year.
No. 7 Tulsa, No. 8 Portland, No. 9 Colorado and No. 10 Iowa State round out the top-10 in Week 1. All five of those programs finished in the top-10 at the NCAA meet last year, headlined by a respective 3-4-5 placement by the Buffaloes, Cyclones and Golden Hurricane. Being in the top-10 is nothing new to Colorado, which find its spot among the nation’s best for the 22nd year in a row (Our full digitized NCAA DI National Coaches’ Poll archives only go back to 1998).
The next edition of the NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll will come out next Tuesday, November 3, following a weekend that features five conference championships – ACC, Big 12, Conference USA, SEC and Sun Belt.