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October 10, 2018

Wood Report Mailbag: Does This Look Like A Repeat of NAU vs. BYU?

The latest Wood Report rankings are up to date and as much as you can do ahead of this weekend’s Pre-Nats in Wisconsin. I can’t spend all day looking at rosters and results to see who exactly might be redshirting. I’m not the guy who is going to bug coaches for that information. I care enough about this to try my rankings but not quite enough to irk some coaches about their athletes.

There might be some people that are ranked who aren’t going to run this year. For example, there’s some names like Jonathan Davis of Illinois, Ben Veach of Indiana or Jonathan Green of Georgetown whose status I don’t totally know about. Illinois is actually a school who is just on the cusp of getting into the meet and without Davis then I don’t know if that would be the case. Green is a guy who Georgetown is reliant on. These are fellas who I haven’t seen results from but could be game changers for their respective teams.

So here are some questions that were bounced around with the CITIUS MAG staff after I turned in my rankings. If you’ve got any questions for me or would like for me to do another mailbag, follow me on Twitter: @Wood_Report and ask away!

Does this year look to be another season of NAU vs. BYU at the NCAA Championship?

I guess we’ll see. We can definitely get a better idea when we (BYU) race against an extremely competitive field. That’s not to say that Notre Dame wasn’t competitive but definitely not as deep as this weekend.

Aside from a possible duel between NAU and BYU, does Stanford look like a podium team to you?

I like Stanford a lot and they’re loaded. That’s the case every year. They always have a top two or three recruiting class. They do a great job of getting their guys developed and running well. Last year, we saw Steven Fahy, Alex Ostberg and Grant Fisher ran at NCAAs. I’m high on them. Obviously when you’ve got a low stick like Fisher and some really good young talent like Callum Bolger, Thomas Ratliffe and Alek Parsons then they’ll factor in. I don’t think Stanford is getting enough credit.

Who else needs more credit?

The men of Oregon. They have the potential to be very good. I think they’ll have a good chance to show us where they’re at this weekend. Charlie Hunter from Australia was a very good pick up.

Shout-out to the men from Wyoming. They’re better than people think. Getting a Division II All-American from CSU Pueblo in Paul Roberts was a major addition.

I am very interested in Oklahoma State. I don’t know if they’ve run all of their guys yet. They were 15th at the Nuttycombe Invitational. Junior Ashenafi Hatte was their top guy with an 11th place finish. They could be a team that makes a jump later in the year.

Last year’s big surprise was Portland. They finished second. On paper, do you see them in a similar position right now? Better? Worse?

That’s a good question. I am always on edge with Portland because you just never know what Rob Conner has up his sleeve. As of right now, I think that they’re about as good as they were last year. I don’t know if that means if they’re still the second-best team in the country based on how some of the other teams around them maybe got better. I don’t think Rob Conner has shown his cards yet. I’ll hold off on passing total judgement on where they’re at right now. I think they’re good and a likely podium team.

A question that was being posed during pre-season: Can Alabama win?

Without Noel Rotich, their chances are over. I think he’s done for the year after dropping out at Nuttycomb. They’ve got three very good guys with Vincent Kiprop, Alfred Chelanga and Gilbert Kigen and could be a top 30 overall cross country team but they could be top 10 overall if they can get some help in addition to three possible top 15 finishers.

Who is a bubble team right now?

I’m actually really high on Cal Poly. This weekend will be big for determining whether I might be onto something or I’m a bit of an idiot. I liked how they looked at Stanford.

Campbell on paper is very good but would require some help from their third, fourth and fifth runners.

NC State and Utah State have a chance as well. Utah State has a very good pack right now but lacks that low stick that they sort of lost with the graduation of Dillon Maggard. This might take a big jump from Luke Baattie to be the leader of their pack to someone in the top 40 or 50.

Morgan McDonald is No. 1. Is he just clearly head and shoulders above everyone else?

Well, when we consider what he’s done on the track and how he looked winning the Wisconsin Invitational, I think he’s the favorite right now. Especially considering that the race is on his home course.

Matt Baxter and Grant Fisher can’t be too far back, right?

Those guys both have yet to show their cards and display where they’re at. I think from right now, Baxter and Fisher are a little behind in my rankings because they haven’t done anything yet. LetsRun had an article that talked a bit about how he was a different guy. I’m really curious to see what he does and how well he can run at NCAA. It seems like from what Stanford is trying to do is that their whole purpose for Fisher is getting him to peak at Nationals. Baxter could be in the same boat. NAU hasn’t raced him yet and that might just be them being patient with his training and timing it right.

The way the NAU runners raced together last year, if they do that again in 2018, how does that impact the individual race?

Running with your teammate always makes it seem more relaxed and normal. It helps you get out of your own head a little bit. I think that will help them if they try to last for as long as they can from the front. I would still stick with McDonald until he shoes that there could be a chink in his armor.

The top freshman in the rankings is James Sugira from Eastern Kentucky. Who the heck is he?

I like him! I like him a lot! Tilastopaja is the stats website that knows all. He’s from Rwanda and if I recall correctly, he’s run 13:46.69 for 5,000 meters. I knew going in that he was going to be pretty good after I saw him run at a meet in Louisville and before Nuttycomb. Then he was fourth at Wisconsin.

We’ll try and do another mailbag if the readers submit questions. I’ll work on getting another projected rankings after Pre-Nats. A full projection of the NCAA Championships will be posted to CITIUS before the big dance. Follow me on Twitter: @Wood_Report

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