Thursday, September 5, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Men's #1- Oklahoma State

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.

#1 Oklahoma State
Head Coach: Dave Smith (8th Season)
2012 National Finish- 1st

Key Returners from 2012
  • Tom Farrell (Sr., 3:58 Mile, 7:51 Open 3k, 13:15 5k, 9th NCAA XC '12)
  • Shadrack Kipchirchir (Sr.,  7:56 Open 3k, 13:38 5k, 29:08 10k, 18th NCAA XC '12)
  • Joseph Manilafasha (Sr., 24th NCAA XC '12, 8:16 Open 3k)
  • Kirubel Erassa (Jr., 3:58 Mile, 7:49 Open 3k, 13:47 5k)
  • Shane Moskowitz (Jr., 3:59 Mile, 8:07 Open 3k, 53rd NCAA XC '12)
  • Craig Nowak (So., US Jr.  Nat'l Champ XC '12, 24th World Cross '12, 8:15 Open 3k, 
  • Brian Gohlke (So., 14:11 5k, 29:28 10k)
  • Taylor Monaghan (Sr., 4:06 Mile, 8:56 3k Steeple)

Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Matthew Fayers (Fr., 1:50 800m, 3:45 1500m, 4:01 Mile (17 yr old)
  • Brigham Hedges (Fr., 4:10 1600m, 9:12 3200m, 14:28 5k, 3 X NXN Qualifier)
  • Luis Martinez (Fr., 4:11 1600m, 9:13 3200m, 3rd NXN '12)
  • Chad Noelle (Transfer from Oregon- So., 3:59 Mile, FL FInalist '10- 10th place)
  • Charles Mathenge (So., From Kenya- 
Season Preview

Was this ever really a question? When only one runner is gone (Girma Mecheso) from the National Championship winning team, it is an easy decision. After a dominant 2012 campaign, the Pokes are ready to come back and do it all over again in 2013. With the majority of the team returning from 2012 (Fabian Clarkson left), Coach Dave Smith looks to have the overwhelmingly best team in the NCAA as we head into the 2013 season. 

Tom Farrell is the top returner from 2012 and is as good of a no. 1 runner than any team has in the NCAA. When Farrell is on, he is very good. His 13:15 5k PR is one of the best in the country and having him for one more season makes the Cowboys that much better. Farrell is the leader on this squad and really is the metronome for Oklahoma State. His speed has really come around quite well recently as he broke the four minute barrier this past track season.  

Shadrack Kipchirchir is in his final season in the bright orange kit for the Pokes as well. Kipchirchir came up huge for Oklahoma State in 2012 where he finished 18th individually and added one more All-American for the Cowboys to help solidify their title. He will be just as needed this season and in fact will be needed to help push Farrell up front. With these two leading the way, they will be able to help push each other in the key races. Both Farrell and Kipchirchir are capable of top 10 finishes at NCAAs in Terre Haute. 

The athlete that really solidified the NCAA title last fall in Louisville, was the efforts of Burundi-native Joseph Manilafasha. Stepping up huge for the Cowboys, Manliafasha found himself finishing 24th in the biggest race of the year. Being a pure cross country runner, Manilafasha does not have the track chops that some of his teammates do, he needs to stay healthy after xc season. Nevertheless, he is another All-American that the Cowboys can throw into the mix of things as we look at the 2013 season. 

The beauty of what the Cowboys have going for them is that all of their runners get a chance to train with some of the most talented athletes in the country day in-and day out. This allows their young athletes to improve at rates others cannot because of the quality of talent surrounding them to train with. This is exactly the case with Shane Moskowitz. After a year or so to be around some of the big-time runners in Stillwater, Moskowitz himself has now turned himself into one of the better harriers in the NCAA that returns from 2012. A breakout year helped Shane finish 53rd at NCAAs. He also had a very good following track season where he broke the 4-minute mile barrier. Moskowitz spent the summer injured,  but when he gets healthy he is going to be ready to deliver when it matters most, just like he did in 2012. 

This only begins to describe what Oklahoma State has coming back from their 2012 team alone. I mean we have not even touched Craig Nowak and his awesome post-NCAA XC season where he won the US Jr. XC Individual National Title and led the US team in Poland and finished 24th individually there. He will be a strong addition to their top seven (the fact that he was not in their top seven in 2012, shows how unbelievably good this team is). 

Brian Gohlke and Taylor Monaghan have really come around as of late as well and are products of being a part of a team of this caliber. Who knows, maybe they will be the next Shane Moskowitz's and finish top 60 this season at NCAAs?

The Cowboys also bring in a very good recruiting class mixed with some good transfers to implement into their top seven and to provide even more depth to their squad. One of the studs of this class is British youngster Matthew Fayers. As a seventeen year old Fayers ran 4:01 for a whole mile, and Dave Smith is very good at getting his miler-types to be good cross country runners, so this is a perfect fit for Fayers. 

Luis Martinez and Brigham Hedges were both prep standouts and have quality experience running at a high-level in high school. I could see them redshirting because the 'Pokes are just that deep. 

No team really ever wants to have the target on their back, but if there is a squad that can handle it, the Cowboys are as fit a team in the country for the spot. At this point it looks like it would take a bad day from Coach Dave Smith's team to not win a national title in Terre Haute. Colorado, NAU, Arkansas and a few others are champing at the bit at any opportunity to beat these guys. With the athletes returning and the studs they're bringing in, the overall favorites to win the National Championship in 2013--are the Oklahoma State Cowboys. 

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