How Men's XC All-Americans Fare The Following Season

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The standard for individual excellence in NCAA cross country is quite clear: finish in the top 40 at nationals. By doing so, an athlete earns All-American status, a title that carries significant weight on a distance runner’s résumé.

In the mega-competitive world of Division I cross country, placing in the top 40 at NCAAs is a tremendously difficult task. Doing so requires an athlete to beat at least 215 other runners at nationals; even for the best-of-the-best that’s no simple matter, and it is especially tough to repeat year after year. When the difference between 40th and 50th place is, on average, less than 10 seconds, you can see how small the margin is between taking home some hardware and leaving empty-handed.

With that in mind, we wanted to find out how common it is for NCAA athletes to repeat their All-American finishes from the season before. So much can change for a runner from one year to the next-- the course, conditions, fitness, mindset, and even luck can contribute to significant differences in an athlete’s cross country performance year-over-year. Each of those elements help make cross country great, and also very difficult to predict.

This week we’re taking a look at the men’s side of NCAA Division I cross country. By using data from the last decade of national championships, the goal was to get a broad view of how frequently top 40 male finishers repeat as All-Americans the following season:

NCAA XC Champs

Non-Senior All-Americans

# of All-Americans Following Season

Percentage

2008

20

11 (2009)

65%

2009

24

10 (2010)

42%

2010

32

18 (2011)

56%

2011

17

8 (2012)

47%

2012

25

14 (2013)

56%

2013

25

16 (2014)

64%

2014

26

12 (2015)

46%

2015

23

11 (2016)

48%

2016

19

10 (2017)

53%

20173016 (2018)53%

Totals

241

126

52%

Over the last decade of men's NCAA Division I cross country, All-Americans have repeated their top 40 finishes at a 52-percent clip year-over-year. For a variety of reasons-- injury, underperformance, tougher competition, and even bad luck-- men’s All-Americans over the last 10 years have had roughly a one out of two shot at replicating their finish the following season.

That seemingly low number highlights just how hard it is to consistently get it right at NCAAs on the day, and further indicates how impressive it is when an athlete garners multiple All-American honors in their career.

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