With the No. 2 team in the country, five of the top 10 squads, and eight total teams featured among the FloXC rankings, the men's competition at the Pre-National Invitational is going to be an exciting showdown. Check out the storylines for the men's team race that goes down in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday.
Who: No. 2 BYU, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Oregon, No. 10 Colorado, No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Ole Miss, No. 23 Utah State, No. 24 Georgetown
When: 10 AM ET
Why: The BYU men's team stunned the crowd at the Bill Dellinger Invitational on September 29 when the Cougars notched an impressive 17-point victory over then-ranked No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Oregon. Led by an impenetrable top pack, the Cougars scored four in the top four spots and the entire top seven finished within the top 10 of the race. The achievement proved to be a massive confidence boost for the team.
"We know that the pack is going to be essential," Clayton Young told FloTrack after winning the individual title in Springfield, Oregon.
Young went on to express that the team does not want to be known as the squad that peaks too early, referring to last year when the then-No. 14 Cougars emerged at No. 1 after beating Syracuse and Stanford at the UVA Panorama Farms Invitational. They went on to finish seventh at the 2016 NCAA Championships in November.
"We got eaten up at NCAAs last year because we started too slow as a pack, and so we're really focusing on starting out strong," he said.
Young's teammates followed in a sweep that included All-American Rory Linkletter (second), Connor McMillan (third), and freshman star Casey Clinger (fourth). Daniel Carney closed the score with a seventh-place finish behind Colby Gilbert of Washington and Alex Ostberg of Stanford.
Although the Stanford men's team held out several of their top scorers, BYU's Dellinger performance turned heads and earned the squad a massive jump in the rankings -- from No. 6 to No. 2. Pre-Nationals is the team's first true test of the season against a deep field of fellow ranked teams.
No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Oregon, and No. 10 Colorado provide an interesting battle as well.
Arkansas is returning from a test of fitness at the program's home meet, the Chile Pepper Invitational. Head coach Chris Bucknam changed the course from 8K to 10K and was pleased with how the team approached the distance this early in the season. All-American Alex George won the individual title with a time of 29:45 to help the Razorbacks win the team crown with 37 points. Fellow senior and All-American Jack Bruce followed in third, Austen Dalquist was fourth, Kyle Levermore was 17th, and Cameron Griffith was 18th overall.
"I'm excited about the results," Bucknam said in the Razorbacks' meet recap. "We've got three outstanding seniors: Jack Bruce, Austen Dalquist, and Alex George, and they ran a very controlled race. I wanted to stretch their fitness a little bit early in the season. I thought it would be proactive for us change the 8K to 10K early in the season and they all responded well. I like what I saw today. We also had two unattached athletes that finished ninth and tenth, Matt Young and Ryan Murphy. Both of those athletes show great promise. It's been a good day today and it was a good start to our season."
The Oregon Ducks enter Pre-Nationals after a third-place finish at Bill Dellinger. The performance was a delayed start to the season for the Ducks after an earlier scheduled meet was canceled. Dellinger was highlighted by a solid collegiate debut from freshman Cooper Teare, who finished ninth overall. Sam Prakel and Tanner Anderson followed in 11th and 12th, respectively.
After the race, coach Andy Powell told FloTrack that he was pleased with the performance but is looking forward to eventually bringing back key contributors Matthew Maton and Levi Thomet. Maton and Thomet are not entered to compete at Pre-Nationals, but could make an appearance during the championship portion of the season and help improve the team's standing.
No. 10 Colorado comes to Louisville after a runner-up finish at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational in Indiana. The Buffaloes dropped slightly in the rankings after losing to Southern Utah, but still remain in the top 10. Coach Mark Wetmore admitted that the team didn't have the best performance in South Bend.
"The men didn't have a good day. They have to have an easy day tomorrow, get back to work, and stare at the results to recognize they didn't run well. Also, maybe I didn't have them correctly prepared, but we have a month to go (before postseason starts)," Wetmore told CUBuffs.com after the performance.
Other teams looking to mix it up and earn Kolas points are No. 16 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Ole Miss, No. 23 Utah State, and No. 24 Georgetown.
Catch the team battle set to go down LIVE on FloTrack this Saturday.