Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #24- Virginia Tech

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Virginia Tech
Head Coach: Ben Thomas (13th Season)
2012 National Finish- 22nd

Key Returners from 2012
  • Thomas Curtin (Jr., 8:07 Open 3k, 13:58, 30:07)
  • Leoule Degfae (Sr., 3:46, 14:08, 29:45)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Patrick Joseph (Fr., 4:06, 9:19)
  • Neil Gourley (Fr., Scottish National Champion, 3:50 1500m)
Season Preview

Similarly to the women's #24 Florida, Virginia Tech brings back only a few of their top seven from 2012 and lose their critical no. 1 runner and low stick. The loss of Will Mulherin is huge. Mulherin spent the majority of the 2012 season in the top five of the races he ran and had a good nationals race which helped propel their team finish from high 20s to 22nd. 

Without Mulherin, the Hokies also need to find a leader among the small group of returnees. Among this group are several very experienced cross country runners who have the track times to back up what they are capable of doing out on the course.

Leoule Degfae is the man with the best 10k PR returning who also was a solid asset for Va Tech throughout the 2012 season. Degfae has good leg speed, but also has good range which will help him as the season wears on. When others legs are tired during a long season, Degfae should be able to step up and lead the Hokies. 

Thomas Curtin is also another consistent harrier and should be looked at as a challenger to Degfae for the no. 1 spot. With a better 5k PR, but a lacking 10k PR, it will be interesting to see who is able to go longer between the two. 

A solid recruiting class was drawn in by coach Thomas and will be utilized right away. UK transfer Neil Gourley will be counted on from the get go to help fill the void left by Mulherin and Brayden  Burleigh, and Michael Hammond. Gourley has some good xc credentials along with a solid 1500m PR. He seems to be a similar type runner as Degfae is, which will benefit him as Ben Thomas is good at turning 1500m types into good xc runners. Patrick Joseph is a 4:06 1600m kid and if Thomas can do the same for him, the Hokies will be ready to roll on the big stage. 

In order to make the Big Dance, Va Tech must stay healthy. If any of the above names get hurt, it could get ugly real fast for the Hokies. Losing Brayden Burleigh (transferred to Shippensburg) will hurt the Hokies,  but differently than Mulherin does. Burleigh was up and down throughout the season, but had a lot of upside. 

If that situation arises, Brian Welch, Ryan Kuhns, or Jared Berman are some other guys who will be called upon to step up. 

Virginia Tech has the talent to get to Terre Haute and if their core guys can take care of themselves, they will be looking at another flight to Indianapolis. 

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