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Worlds Track Finalist Knight The Fave

by Sieg Lindstrom

It’s always… errr… interesting to play NCAA Cross Country fortune teller in the first half of September. Ten months have passed since the last rodeo, most teams train, don't often race, their fastest horses in the early fall. The last winter and spring's track results are informative but don't map perfectly to grass and mud, hill and dale. And there are long, only recently concluded summer track seasons to keep in mind for some. (click here for women’s individual preview)

Like that of top returnee Justyn Knight of Syracuse, our favorite, whose World Championships 5000 9th-place finish had him circling the oval in London into the second week of August. Timing of the Canadian senior's recharge and reload guided by coach Chris Fox will mean a lot, though not everything for whether Knight can move up a spot to the win in Louisville, Kentucky, come November 18.

  • 2016NCAAXC JustynKnight
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  • 2016NCAAXC GrantFisher2
  • 2016NCAAXC Linkletter
  • Baxter Matthew ncaaxc16
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  • 2016NCAAXC ArkGeorgeBruceAbdi
  • 2016NCAAXC JerellMock
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  • 2016NCAAXC Hassan Abdi
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  • Alex George & Jack Bruce of Arkansas

For all contenders, course conditions play a role, and Louisville's E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park route generally yields 10K times a minute or more faster than Indiana State's course run in 11 of the last 13 years—possibly favoring runners with strong track pedigrees?

Ratings from an early perspective:

1. Justyn Knight (Syracuse): If you make a Worlds distance final… yeah, there's a credential. He’s not only last year’s runnerup, he placed 4th in ’15, has 13:17.51 wheels at 5000 and leads a squad that will be in the thick of the team tussle.

2. Vincent Kiprop (Alabama): Junior transfer from Missouri Southern won the Div. II crown in ’16 by 28 seconds. His 28:32.07 DII 10,000 win last spring was part of a 5/10 double that followed a two-win Indoor Champs. He’s ready for Div. I and has two formidable fellow Kenyans to train with in Tuscaloosa.

3. Morgan McDonald (Wisconsin): the Aussie senior placed 7th last year, won the Big 10 5000, PRed at 13:15.83 in July and nearly made the Worlds final, just 0.46 behind Knight in the same heat.

4. Alfred Chelanga (Alabama): Second to Kiprop at Div. II XC last year, after transferring over the winter, he churned a 28:04.95 track 10K in March, won the SEC 25-lapper and placed 11th in NCAA track at the distance. Listed as a junior for cross.

5. Grant Fisher (Stanford): The junior has been a big meet racer on the Farm. He placed 5th last year, 17th as a frosh in ’15, and then won the uber-tactical NCAA 5000 last June. A 13:37.77 guy with mile speed.

6. Rory Linkletter (BYU): The Canadian placed 32nd, second man on BYU’s 7th-place squad in ’16, and stepped up for 2nd in the NCAA track 10K in June.

7. Matthew Baxter (Northern Arizona): Placings of 11th in Cross and 7th in the NCAA track 10K plus a 28:48.02 track PR all endorse the skills of the Kiwi senior who is the top returnee from ’16's champion team.

8. Gilbert Kigen (Alabama): An 11-time JUCO champion in track & XC, the Kenyan won the harrier nationals both his years at Central Arizona, and a mile/3K/5K triple indoors and 10K/5K double outdoor track double in ’17.

9. Colin Bennie (Syracuse): ’Cuse's likely No. 2 man placed 8th in ’15 (in Louisville) and 17th last fall. 8th in the ’16 NCAA Indoor 5000, 20th at 10,000 last June.

10. Alex George (Arkansas): The ’16 SEC champ, he placed 15th at Nationals last fall as a junior. He won the Euro Junior 5000 crown for Britain in ’15 and ran 13:40.66 at the Stanford Invitational last spring. Must bounce back from a DNF in his NCAA Regional 5000 that cut short his ’17 oval campaign.

11. Jerell Mock (Colorado State): Placing 10th in both the NCAA indoor 5000 and outdoor 10K (and racing to PRs of 13:44.65 and 28:11.80) make his 54th-place harrier finish in ’16 look anomalous. He was 19th in ’15 (at Louisville) as a soph.

12. Tyler Day (Northern Arizona): No. 2 returning finisher (23rd) from the ’16 champion Lumberjacks, he sat out outdoor track collegiately last spring but raced 28:46.07 in June and 12 days later placed 9th at the USATF Champs at the distance.

13. Jack Bruce (Arkansas): The Aussie senior is a 1500/5K type who fares well over the country; 19th in ’16. Placed 2nd in the ’17 NCAA 5000, at which distance he has a fine 13:38.15 PR.

14. Hassan Abdi (Oklahoma State): An Ethiopian-born Texan, about whom the only question mark is raised by an NCAA 10,000 DNF last spring. Lots to recommend him otherwise: 16th in ’16, 5th at JUCO XC for South Plains in ’15, and carries 13:43.27/28:54.86 track PRs.

15. Joe Klecker (Colorado): Buff soph from an accomplished running family. His mom Janis won the ’92 Olympic Trials Marathon and dad set ultra WRs at 50K (track) and 50 miles in the ’80s. Joe placed 28th in ’17 and 7th in the NCAA 5K. Has a 13:42.64 5000 PR.

Others To Watch: Jacob Choge (Middle Tennessee), John Dressel (Colorado), Arsène Guillorel (Samford), Lawrence Kipkoech (Campbell), Gilbert Kirui (Iona), Dillon Maggard (Utah State), Matthew Maton (Oregon), Andy Trouard (Northern Arizona), Yusuke Uchikoshi (Boise State), Michael Williams (Washington State), Clayton Young (BYU).

September 18, 2017

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