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2017 FloXC Countdown: #5 Washington U. Men

2017 FloXC Countdown: #5 Washington U. Men
Follow our 2017 FloXC Countdown, where FloTrack ranks the top ten cross country teams and individuals in the NCAA this season which will be LIVE on FloTrack. The No. 5 men's spot goes to Washington U., and here's why:

Probable Top Six:

SR David O'Gara (15:04 5K; 30:15 10K; 6th at '17 NCAA 10K; 29th at '16 NCAA XC)
SO Nick Matteucci (3:48 1500; 5th at '17 NCAA 1500; 75th at '16 NCAA XC)
JR Peter Johnsrud (14:58 5K; 31:17 10K; 106th at '16 NCAA XC; 182nd at '15 NCAA XC)
SO Marco Quaroni (15:07 5K)
SR Kirby Simon (15:00 5K; 147th at '16 NCAA XC)
JR Kyle Cepeda (15:17 5K; 31:50 10K; 129th at '16 NCAA XC)

Analysis:

The WashU men never made the podium before their third-place finish in 2011, but they've scarcely missed one since. The Bears have landed on the podium four teams since that year -- more than every men's program in the country except for North Central. And despite that vaunted competition, head coach Jeff Stiles says that "this might be the best team we've ever had."

The Bears take their first bite with David O'Gara, who holds the unusual distinction of having a 10K PR (30:15) that is nearly exactly double his 5K PR (15:04). We have him at No. 7 in the FloTrack rankings, and fresh off a sixth-place finish at NCAAs in the 10K, he could be a national title contender.

That isn't even the best track finish at nationals on the roster, as sophomore Nick Matteucci was fifth in the 1500 meters in May. He hasn't run a single race longer than a mile since last cross country season, but that's no cause for concern -- he's the 35th returner in DIII. The miler might not love the hilly course at Principia, but he should still be reliable for a top-50 finish after taking 75th a year ago.

Peter Johnsrud was just seven seconds and thirty places behind Matteucci last year; he's the 60th returner. If healthy, the Bears' first three could conservatively finish something like 10-40-70 (actual places), which is a lethal start.

Behind those three, Stiles says there are "a lot of guys who no one knows their name, who can be a top five guy." He adds, "There are a lot of opportunities for different people . . . We have a lot of guys that have the capacity that have been contributors that never have been, it's kind of fun."

Stiles was cagey about which of his freshmen have looked the best early on, but there are two returners who have run just above 15:00 and a third who's in the top 80 returners. If two of Marco Quaroni, Kirby Simon, and Kyle Cepeda finish in the top 100 -- and they should -- then this is a team right on or just off the podium. If they or someone else steps up into the top 75 or so, then the Bears could finish in the top two or three and officially be the best WashU men's team ever.

FULL MEN'S RANKINGS HERE
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