2021 NCAA DI Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll – Week 7
NEW ORLEANS – Let’s lace them up and start dancing!
Here is the final edition of the NCAA Division I Men’s Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll for the 2021 season, released on Monday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), just five days before the NCAA Championships on Saturday, November 20. Four different teams earned first-place votes in the pre-championship edition, which means a coronation isn’t a forgone conclusion in Tallahassee, Florida, this weekend.
NCAA Division I — Men's Cross Country
This Week's National Top Five
Cross Country Polls & Rankings
Defending national champion Northern Arizona received seven of the 11 first-place votes from the electorate and headlines the National Coaches’ Poll for good reason. Not only have the Lumberjacks performed well under the bright lights of the NCAA Championships with four team titles in the past five years (NAU finished runner-up in that other year), but they also excelled this season with wins at both the Cowboy Jamboree and the FSU Invite/Pre-Nationals over multiple top-10 programs. The Lumberjacks return five athletes from last year’s national-title winning squad, including two top-10 finishers in Nico Young and Abdihamid Nur. NAU recently finished runner-up at the Mountain Region Championships.
BYU, the team that beat NAU for the national title in 2019, saw its stock rise in a big way after topping the podium at the Mountain Region Championships this past weekend. The Cougars, who are now ranked second and own two first-place votes, put four runners in the top-10 this past weekend and have the undefeated Conner Mantz leading the way. Mantz, the defending individual champion, could become just the fourth man to win back-to-back crowns since 2000 (Simon Bairu of Wisconsin in 2004 and 2005; Sam Chelanga, Liberty in 2009 and 2010; Edward Cheserek of Oregon from 2013 to 2015).
Oklahoma State held steady at No. 3 and was the only team in the top-5 not to move. The Cowboys, who won the team title at the Midwest Region Championships this past weekend and hold one first-place vote, last won a national title in 2012 for its third crown in four years. Oklahoma State enters the NCAA Championships on a roll, putting four or more athletes in the top-10 of both the Big 12 Championships and the Midwest Region Championships to beat highly-ranked Iowa State both times.
Welcome back to the top-5, Notre Dame! The Irish jumped two spots from No. 6 to No. 4 and gained a first-place vote after running roughshod over the competition at the Great Lakes Region Championships. It was in Evansville, Indiana, where Notre Dame had a miniscule spread of 3.6 seconds between its No. 1 and No. 6 runners as it beat current No. 8 Wisconsin by 50 points. Five of the Irish’s six All-Americans from this past spring should race on Saturday, which is great news for a team that finished a strong runner-up to NAU. If Notre Dame wins the team title, it would be its first in cross country since 1957.
Colorado, now ranked fifth, was one of three top-5 teams from Week 6 to drop multiple spots in Week 7 (Iowa State and Stanford were the others). The Buffaloes finished a distant third at the Mountain Region Championships this past weekend, but have raced well all season long in high-pressure situations. Colorado rolled to the team title at the Pac-12 Championships, took runner-up honors at the FSU Invite/Pre-Nats and ended up third due to a tiebreaker at the Cowboy Jamboree nearly two months ago. The Buffs have posted seven podium finishes since 2010, including back-to-back national titles in 2013 and 2014.
Elsewhere in the National Coaches’ Poll, nine different teams parlayed a strong effort at various Regional Championships into big improvements: South champion Ole Miss went from No. 19 to No. 15; Mid-Atlantic champion Princeton went from No. 18 to No. 16; Southeast champion Wake Forest went from RV to No. 17; Northeast champion Syracuse went from No. 23 to No. 19; South runner-up Alabama went from RV to No. 23; and Mid-Atlantic runner-up Georgetown went from No. 29 to No. 25.
Champions will be crowned on Saturday, November 20, as the 2021 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships will take place at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Florida. Don’t forget that you can watch the meet LIVE, commercial-free on ESPNU beginning at 10 am ET!