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October 2, 2017

Wood Report: Thoughts On A Big Cross Country Weekend

Editor’s note: Cross country needs a Peter King-type figure who just gathers all of the weekend’s action and then dishes out some analysis, insight and takes on the hot topics within the sport. We’ve decided to let Isaac run wild with a column now that cross country season is in full swing. Grab some coffee or seltzer and nerd out on the latest from the jam-packed cross country weekend.

Always down to answer any cross country questions on Twitter: @Wood_Report. Before you keep reading, click that link and hit that follow button. You can also email us at [email protected] to send in any questions that you think would want answered in a future column. If you have bad things to say about what I wrote about your team, give me a chance to defend my opinion. If you like what you’re reading, I don’t mind hearing about that too.

Onto the action!

BYU…I guess we have to talk about them

I think everyone was pleased with how the race went in general. I still think everyone believes that there’s a lot more work to be done. More importantly, our mindset is to keep getting better every week and keep improving our pack, getting our fifth runner closer to our fourth and that kind of stuff so that when we’re in a deeper and bigger race then our pack time is still pretty tight within 10 t0 12 seconds for 1 to 5. I think that’s a pretty solid goal to have. At the first meet, Rory Linkletter was our top guy. This weekend, it was Clayton Young. We’ve got about four guys that can interchange as our top runner on any given day. That’s kind of the way that things have been in workouts. Because of that, I expect that Connor McMillan could be our No. 1 at Pre-Nats or Casey Clinger has an awesome day at the conference meet. Who knows? It’s hard to count out Rory in any race because he’s just that talented. I don’t know many guys who have the drive and the desire to be as good as he does. I think he could win just about any of those races this year. Winning Nationals would be tough but you never know, right? He’s definitely in my opinion a top five or at minimum a top 10 guy at nationals. If that’s the case then you have to look at Clayton, Connor and Casey and think that maybe they’ll be within that zone too.

Other teams like Stanford and Oregon held out a few runners from Dellinger. I think that the thought process behind us making the trip out there was that we wanted to go somewhere that we haven’t been to in a while and also snag some points. Either way, we got points. I don’t know if Oregon has more than three guys that they held out because I believe the rules state something about racing four at the regional meet that you’ve raced during the season for points to count. If Matthew Maton gets healthy then that’s one. Levi Thomet might be another. Either way, it was nice to go out there and get a team win. There was confidence that was gained there and it was worth any point that we would not have gotten. We know we can run up front at a meet with four guys. Our gap from four to five was only three seconds. Our gap from first to fifth was only eight.

There’s been a little bit of chatter about the course. Some are saying that it was flat. That’s more on the women’s side. The men’s race was definitely 8K. It was fast. the conditions were good but just a little rainy. They’re hosting PAC-12’s there and so if you’re looking for a little bit of intel on how things are going to go there? It’s going to be fast.

Cooper Teare Is Legit

He’s talented. I think it goes to show he’s got some conviction in knowing that he can be the No. 1 guy for the Oregon Ducks. Sometimes when you’re a freshman, you can be a little apprehensive to be the one to take it out for your team. He was not afraid and did it. He may not have been the top Duck from the start of the race but he worked his way there. He’s a bonafide No. 1 on a pretty solid team.

In my previous team rankings, I noted a few questions about the back end of their top five or top seven. We didn’t know who would be the guys that stick to those spots. The good news for Oregon is that when they throw in James West, Maton and Thomet into the equation (where their health is at, I don’t know) but let’s say that they’re healthy, they’re in the top 5. That puts Sam Prakel and Travis Neuman or Blake Haney as their 5-6-7. That’s a good sign. For Oregon, I don’t think this meet was super indicative of where they’re going to be. Classes just started on Monday. They’re just coming off their team camp. They’re just getting started. For the Ducks, the biggest thing that you can takeaway from the meet is that Teare is very good, Prakel can run 8K for a miler and when they get their other guys back then they’ll be legit.

NAU’s Win At Louisville Was Almost As Impressive As BYU’s Win…Maybe More

Could be more impressive. I think the field was a bit deeper and to be able to run as well as they did as a pack – similar to us – is a great signal. When you can go 1-2-3-4 at any meet, it’s impressive. To do it at the Greater Louisville Classic is even more so. Fifth place finisher Yusuke Uchikoshi was 18th at Nationals last year. Jacob Choge of Middle Tennessee State was around 40th at Nationals. All studs. The one thing to keep an eye out for them is that their fifth was 32 seconds back from their No. 1. It was freshman Luis Grijalva and I only expect him to get better as the season goes along so he’ll get closer. Sometimes that first big invitational in the official team uniform can add a little nerves but it shouldn’t be a problem.

Furman *Insert Eyes Emojis Here*

The most impressive thing to me about Furman was that their grouping was very good. Their No. 1 guy was 23:40 and their No. 5 guy was 23:57 so 17-seconds is very good. I wouldn’t say that they have that one stick that can be top 10-15 at Nationals but they have the pieces to put five guys within 20th to 60th or 70th. When you have a team like that, that’s a top 10 team at Nationals. Minimum. Possible seventh or eighth. If they can duplicate Saturday’s performance at Nationals, they’re going to be dangerous. Expect a bump in the next rankings from me.

What is Wisconsin doing?

It’s a question that’s been asked this time of the year in recent years but I’ve learned not to really doubt Mick Byrne. I think you’ve got to take it easy with Morgan McDonald with the fact that he had a long summer throwing down a 5K personal best at Heusden and then competing at Worlds. They didn’t run all their top dogs. They didn’t run Olin Hacker or Zach Snider. They didn’t quite give their true freshmen a taste yet of what it’s like to race at this level and that applies to someone like Finn Gessner and Seth Hirsch. When they’re added, they’ll get better as a team. I’ve been very high on Hirsch because I see him and think he’s got the mold of a 10K guy. He could be a 3, 4 or 5 guy for the Badgers possibly by Regionals. Take a look at the results but then imagine that maybe McDonald would’ve won. Hacker can be a top 10 to 15. Snider is somewhere in the 20 to 25. You can shave off probably like 90 points minimum. They go from getting eighth to second or third. I wouldn’t stress if I were them. In fact, I think Mick enjoys this.

How Big Was The Southern Utah Upset Over Colorado

It’s an upset for sure, but I’ve been pretty high on Southern Utah from the get-go, if you’ve been following some of the rankings on other sites. I believe that I had them higher than most others. Mike Tate is legit. Kasey Knevelbaard is good. Josh Collins ran a very good 10K over the summer at a race that my dad put on and I was like ‘Wow. He’s fit.’ Their 1-2-3 is very quality. They beat Colorado by 20 points. The Buffs didn’t really hold any guys out. They say that they split squads but the only guy that I thought would be a factor in their top 7 who didn’t run was Mark Tedder, the Cornell transfer. Joe Klecker ran great. Give him credit for running with the Kenyans so it’s obvious that he’s got some confidence. I think John Dressel will bounce back. He’s too talented to let an OK race bring him down. He’s a guy that any other day would probably finish right with Klecker. The thing is that Mark Wetmore is who he is. These guys will be ready and show up when it matters. Does it matter to win invites during the year? Yeah, sure. You don’t race to not win but I wouldn’t be pushing the panic button if I’m in Boulder.

Back to Southern Utah for a second. Someone emailed us and asked when did they get good. People know the school’s name in cross country but sometimes it was just because of individual stars like Cam Levins or Nate Jewkes. This team is very different from those past squads. Their overall depth is significantly better. In recent years, they’d have that great 1-2 and sometimes a No. 3. Their No. 4 and No. 5 were quality guys but not game changers. Now they have five of those guys. George Espino is sometimes an 800 or 1,500 meter guy and he was 21st at Notre Dame. The guy is an aerobic animal. He’ll do what he can for the track but then shows up and runs 24:12.2 for 8K. Matt Wright was not too far behind in 24:12.4. This all shows how well they’re doing with collecting talent and depth. Instead of having three top-heavy guys, now they’ve got five, six, seven or maybe even people that didn’t travel are possibly 24:45 runners for 8K.

Just makes things tougher in the state of Utah for my crew at BYU but we welcome it. It’s a good thing. I think it goes to show how talented we are in this state. Not everyone is from here but the level of talent that we’re seeing from the area is the best it’s ever been. We tweeted out a fun fact from the BYU Twitter account that our top five guys are all from within a 20-mile radius of each other.

The Alabama Crimson Tri Can Make Nationals

Here’s why. I was looking at the South region and I like who Florida State has on paper but they’re currently not there yet. They could put it together and make it to the big dance. BUT…when you score 1-2-3 and that’s what they’re going to do there – I don’t see that not happening. With that being the case, that’s six points and if they have someone finish in the top 30 and then top 40, they’re going to get at least second place as a team. That’s how you do it. I’m sleeping a little bit on Middle Tennessee State. I need to see one more good performance from them before I’m sold.

People forget that when you’re running with teammates in the middle of a race, it makes things easier. It’s a significant difference. You can look over when your struggling but you’ll see your teammate there. That’s when you think ‘Oh, we do this in practice.’ It’s a boost. I think the Crimson Tri is pretty dang good. You just need those two guys to get things going.

Dillon Maggard Proving Me Right

I told you guys to keep your eyes peeled on Maggard before the season started and he won at Paul Short. He showed his quality. Making the trip across the country isn’t easy and he did it to beat a good field. Azaria Kirwa and Jonathan Green are studs. Remember that Green was fifth at Nationals in 2015. Dillon beat those guys and proved that he was the best one in the field. That’s a big time performance that’ll help Utah State, who is currently displaying stronger depth than in recent years. I think they’re looking forward to something like Pre-Nats to really see where they’re at. Beating Georgetown was a good win for them but we’ll know more about them soon.

The Georgetown boys had a few words recently about the Wood Report rankings. Spencer Brown brought it. He was their No. 2 guy behind Green. I guess I can’t rank him last. I may have to give him some credit and bump him up a couple spots in the individual rankings.

Who Are The Kings of the Mountain (Region)?

I think NAU and BYU are the best two teams in the region right now because of how they went 1-2-3-4 in their respective races over the weekend. Think about it though. Colorado State won Roy Griak. Southern Utah won Notre Dame. Colorado was second at Notre Dame. Air Force was third at Notre Dame. Utah State won Paul Short. We still have very little idea of what UTEP has got. That could be EIGHT teams making it out of the Mountain Region. That’s just bananas.

NEXT WOOD REPORT RANKINGS

Sometime before Pre-Nats, I should have updated team and individual projections out.

If you have any questions or complaints, tweet them at me: @Wood_Report.

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