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.
Head Coach: Andy Powell (9th Season)
2012 National Finish- 20th
Key Returners from 2012
- Parker Stinson (Sr., 7:55 Open 3k, 13:31 5k, 28:34 10k)
- Jeremy Elkaim (Jr., 3:59 Mile, 13:39 5k)
- Matthew Melancon (So., 14:09 5k, 29:31 10k)
- Ryan Pickering (Jr., 14:19 5k, 29:48 10k)
- Mac Fleet (Sr., 3:38 1500m, 49th West Regional '09)
- Ed Cheserek (Fr., 4:02 Mile, 8:39 2 Mile, 13:57 5k, 2 x FL Champion)
- Jake Leingang (Fr., 4:05 1600m, 8:51 3200m, 14:11 5k, 3rd FL '12, 4th FL '11)
- Brett Johnson (Sr., from Virginia- 3:58 Mile, FL Finalist)
Of all of the predictions and previews I have done thus far, there has been no team that I have mulled over where to put them more, than Oregon's men. Putting them at no. 4 came through a process of several factors. A lot of it has to do with their recent success on the track the past indoor and outdoor seasons. Another factor that played in was the better than typical recruiting class for the Ducks. Also, I do believe that Andy Powell is a good coach and is due for another run at the podium spot, and this is a team that is capable of it.
Much of the success of Oregon this year will be centered around how high Parker Stinson can finish at the NCAA meet. Stinson is the leader of the Ducks and needs to be a huge low-stick for them to make the podium. There may be no other athlete in the country as motivated as Stinson to race well at NCAAs because of his unfortunate performance in Louisville in 2012.
Parker is coming off of a very good track season where he ran big PRs in both the 5k and 10k, 8 seconds and 26 seconds, respectively. Stinson should be able to carry his track momentum into an outstanding final cross country season and is a shoo-in for All-American and could be top-15.
Another important piece of the puzzle for the Ducks will be the improvement of Jeremy Elkaim on the cross country course. Elkaim proved his ability indoors where he ran 13:39 for 5k and had a pretty good follow up season outdoors. If he can become a cross country runner and step up into the no. 2-3 runner slot, Elkaim is very talented and is good enough to be All-American, but will have to actually prove it in a race.
Mac Fleet has battled injuries his entire career, but when he has been healthy he has done quite well in xc. Placing 49th his freshman year at the West regional XC proves he is capable of performing at a high level in cross country, it is just a matter of staying healthy. After the best outdoor track season of his career, he could be dangerous in 2013.
Matt Melancon is another guy who came around on the track this past year and is a good glue guy. His 29:31 10k PR is solid and could be a good anchor no. 5 runner and is seemingly one of the more consistent runners on the squad.
Oregon is full of a bunch of talented runners who just haven't really proved themselves on the cross country course. Guys like Ben DeJarnette, Daniel Winn, Colby Alexander, Chris Brewer, Ryan Pickering and Cole Watson are all capable runners. If Oregon can find just one or two of these athletes having good seasons, the Ducks will be in good shape come Terre Haute.
The biggest reason behind the high ranking of Oregon lies in its awesome recruiting class. Getting Ed Cheserek and Jake Leingang was huge for the future success of Oregon and both of these athletes are immediate impact guys.
Ed Ches is one of the best high school runners in U.S. history and has PRs that are better than a large chunk of NCAA runners. 13:57 for 5k in high school is amazing and 8:39 for 2 Miles is also top-notch. Cheserek has won Foot Locker back-to-back years and has been dominant in cross country as a prep. He should be looking at an All-American finish as long as he as a pretty good day at NCAAs.
Jake Leingang was a very talented prep runner. His 14:11 5k performance at NBON was a good sign of what he is going to be able to do immediately at the NCAA level. If Leingang can hold on to Ches as long as he can, he will be a very good no. 4-5 runner for the Ducks.
Things are looking good for the Men of Oregon in 2013. There are so many pieces to the NCAA podium puzzle in place for the Ducks. If they can get just get one or two of their super-talented, who have not proven themselves yet, runners to step-up, Oregon is going to give some of the best schools in the country a run and find themselves relevant on the national level in cross country once again.