NCAA Cross Country Preview — Men’s Top 10 Individuals

From an early-October angle, senior Drew Bosley looks like the Lumberjack likely to lead Northern Arizona and perhaps the entire field. (MIKE SCOTT)

PREDICTING THE TOP individuals this far out from the Big Dance is always a big challenge (or more precisely, an impossibility). In a sport where many of the best don’t race early, and where training progress is difficult to discern, we are often left with the only real data we have — how a runner performed last fall, and whether the track season showed any continuation of that trajectory.

Take that imperfect process, and factor in the possibility of a few mysterious foreign recruits jumping into the picture, as well as the grinding work of American runners who have not made the radar yet but are ready for a breakthrough, and we’re left with a list you’d be better off not betting money on.

Alas, though, this is a collection of serious talent that should be watched carefully this fall, especially as the leaves fall in the north and the cold wind starts to blow.

1. Drew Bosley (Northern Arizona)

Placed 3rd last year for the Lumberjacks after his 13th as a soph. During track, he saw mixed fortunes, starting out roaring with a 13:13.26 and then a Collegiate Record 7:36.42 for 3K. He won Big Sky titles in both and finished 3rd in the NCAA Indoor 5000, 2nd in the 3000. Outdoors he reportedly was injured after a pair of solid early races. He claimed victory in the prestigious Virginia Invitational in September.

2. Ky Robinson (Stanford)

The Australian junior placed just 10th last year but came into his own during the track season, winning a hot weather 5/10K double at the NCAA Championships. In between he placed 23rd at the World Cross County. With bests of 13:11.53 and 27:58.74, he’s on the brink of world class. In his first race this fall, he placed 3rd at Virginia.

3. Casey Clinger (BYU)

The Cougar senior finished 7th last year after his 8th the year before. He continued to make progress on the track, running 13:17.36 indoors before running 2nd in the NCAA Indoor 5000 and 4th in the 3000. Outdoors, he finished 3rd in the 10,000 (with a PR of 28:01.67 earlier in the season) and 11th in the 5000.

4. Nico Young (Northern Arizona)

The ’22 runner-up, the Big Sky champion didn’t race often on the track last year, and closed his season with an 8th in the NCAA 5000. Now a junior, he has a solid summer of training behind him and is hoping to move up.

5. Graham Blanks (Harvard)

The Crimson’s Blanks finished 6th last year after winning the Northeast Region. On the track, he finished 6th in the NCAA 10,000 and came back to be runner-up in the 5000. With a 3:56.63 mile PR and a 13:18.45 in the 5000, he has the speed to be very dangerous.

6. Jackson Sharp (Wisconsin)

The Badger senior from Australia was only 15th last season at nationals. In track he managed 3rd in the outdoor 5000, then ran a European season wearing his Badger kit in which he scored a PR 3:37.50 at 1500 and just missed his 5000 best of 13:26.56.

7. Alex Maier (Oklahoma State)

A senior now, Maier placed 5th at nationals last fall. In track he blasted some fast early-season indoor times, 13:11.80 at BU and 7:43.05 at Millrose. He followed that with a 5th in the Indoor 3K, but struggled in Austin’s heat to finish 21st in the 10K outdoors. Alongside the Cowboys’ new recruits, he could get help from the pack.

8. Denis Kipngetich (Oklahoma State)

A late pick-up by the Cowboys could end up being a major player. The Kenyan frosh surprised many by showing up in an OSU jersey and winning the Cowboy Jamboree by 20 seconds in 23:21.5. He ran a 13:43.92 at altitude in February.

9. Kenneth Rooks (BYU)

By now, Cougar junior Rooks is far better known for his steeplechase chops than his cross country record, but he is an intriguing key for the team. Last season he ran just 63rd at Nuttycombe and 12th at the West Coast Conference. Will he be a major overland player now after his track breakout season and NCAA/USATF wins?

10. Carter Solomon (Notre Dame)

A steady improver for the Irish, the junior finished 18th last fall after winning the ACC title on the Panorama Farms course by outkicking North Carolina’s Parker Wolfe. In track he scored PRs indoors with his 3:57.13 mile and 13:26.11 at 5000, then ran 5th in the 5000 in Austin. If his improvement continued with a solid summer, then he should figure in the top 10.

11. Habtom Samuel (New Mexico)

Coming in late as the unprecedented 11th of 10, Lobos frosh Samuel won the Griak Invitational, and in a perfect world we would have noticed that he also has PRs of 13:13.74 and 27:20.08. Two World U20 podium finishes also burnish his resume. A top 10 finish would seem very likely.

Others To Watch:

Christian Allen (BYU), Zach Facioni (Wake Forest), Evans Kiplagat (New Mexico). ◻︎