Wednesday, August 7, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #16- Eastern Kentucky

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.

Eastern Kentucky
Head Coach: Rick Erdmann (35th Season)
2012 National Finish- 24th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Wade Meddles (Sr., 8:03 Open 3k, 13:52 5k, Returning All-American from XC '12)
  • Soufiane Bouchikhi (Sr., 7:53 Open 3k, 13:33 5k, 28:35 10k)
  • Ole Hesselbjerg (Jr., 8:17 Open 3k, 8:42 3k Steeple)
  • Thijs Nijhuis (Jr., 14:32 5k, 29:42 10k)
  • Mads Taersbol (So., 13th Euro Jr. XC '11, 3:48 1500m, 8:16 Open 3k)
  • Amos Kosgey (So., 8:16 Open 3k, 14:33 5k)
  • Ben Toroitich (Jr., 8:37 3k Steeple, 14:06 5k, 
  • Erwin Leysen (Sr., 8:11 Open 3k, 8:55 3k Steeple, 14:21 5k, 29:35 10k)

Season Preview

Heading into this 2013 season, one of the most under-the-radar teams in the country, is the squad that Coach Rick Erdmann has put together at Eastern Kentucky. Although Coach Erdmann has had incredible success at the conference level at EKU, he has never entered a season looking at a legitimate chance to place in the top-10 at NCAAs. Last season was the highest this program has ever been ranked in its school history, as it was ranked 13th in the country in the middle of the season . 

With every single athlete from their 2012 team returning for this season, the Colonels have never looked so good. This team is absolutely loaded and is coming off a fine track season as well which will provide the momentum they need to carry into a good summer and to prepare for the best cross country season in school history. 

Led by Soufiane Bouchikhi of Belgium, the Colonels are in good hands up front. There are only a handful of athletes in the entire NCAA that have the kind of quality PRs that he has. He is a possible top-10 finisher individually and will be the critical low-stick that every team needs. Bouchikhi redshirted outdoor in 2013 and should use that to his advantage to build a big base and come back fit and ready to roll. 

Wade Meddles is the lone American in their top seven and is a former high school stud. Meddles ran great at NCAAs finishing up with All-American honors in 2012. His 13:52 5k PR is very solid and proved worthy of it at NCAAs Outdoors where he finished 11th overall. Meddles provides a very stable and quality no. 2 runner heading into the 2013 season. 

Ben Toroitich, along with being on the most under-the-radar teams in the country, could be the country's most underrated runner. After a good start to his xc season of 2012, Toroitich ran the rest of the season hurt and still ran quite well at the regional regardless of his injury placing 15th. He has a very good PR in the 3k Steeple of 8:37 and solid 5k PR of 14:06. He is definitely worthy of sub-14 for 5000m . 

Toroitich had such a great start to his season last year that he was looking at possible All-American honors at the end of the season (10th at Wisco, 11th at Notre Dame). With Toroitich healthy, this three-headed monster of Bouchikhi, Meddles and Toroitich is a legitimate threat to every team in the NCAA. 

What is even scarier about the Colonels is that the rest of their athletes remaining that will be contributors to this squad are not scrubs. Ole Hesselbjerg is a quality 3k steepler who placed 7th overall in the NCAA Outdoor final in 2013. This should translate into a much improved cross country season for him in '13. Thijs Nijhuis and Erwin Leysen are both mid-29:00 10k guys and will be very good core pack runners for the Colonels. 

Mads Taersbol is a darkhorse on this team because of his nice cross country experience as European Junior finishing 13th as a junior at the Euro Cross meet. He struggled at nationals last year and will be wanting to prove he is capable of much better. He has the best speed on the team and closes races well. 

Coming off of a second place finish as a team at the Southeast Regional in 2012, Eastern Kentucky should be considered the favorite in the region for 2013. Because of this they will be advancing to the Big Dance without a problem (barring injuries) and is quite possibly the scariest team in the entire NCAA that no one knows about. 

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