Etrain Team Power Rankings: #17 North Carolina State Wolfpack

17. North Carolina State Wolfpack
Flotrack’s #17: Southern Utah Thunderbirds
Coach: Rollie Geiger
Notable Departures: N/A
Notable Additions:
Meron Simon (transfer)
Projected Scoring Five: Sam Parsons (JR) [ET#35], Graham Crawford (SR) [ET#50], Meron Simon (SR), Bakri Abushouk (SO), Sebastian Hanson (SO)
When I look at this squad, it shocks me that they weren’t ranked better in Flotrack’s rankings (but we’ll get to that later). The team was going through a transition period last fall trying to put the pieces of the puzzle back together after losing some crucial pieces to graduation. Luckily, their top guys stepped up and savored what could have been a disappointing season. The experienced veterans that return to this team as well as the new faces and young potential put this squad at #17 spot.

The Wolfpack entered last season with some rebuilding to do. Their leader, Andrew Colley, graduated, and left NC State with a big hole up front as well as plenty of depth to make up. The team began last season by attending the Covered Bridge XC meet. The Wolfpack would take it as a workout and get the first race jitters out of their system to prepare them for the Adidas XC Challenge in their home state. That said, the competition wasn’t that strong and NC State would take four of the top five spots to win the meet. Another two weeks would pass until the Notre Dame Invite. NC State would need to show that they could still be competitive despite losing top names. While it wasn’t the most beautifully executed race, NC State sneaked out with a respectable 9th place team finish. While it wasn’t a flashy finish, you had to commend the Wolfpack for their efforts especially considering that Graham Crawford had a very off day and finished as the team’s 6th man. Pre-Nats would be the next race on the list for Coach Geiger’s squad. Many were patiently waiting to see if the Wolfpack could all show up and race well on the same day. The result, however, was the complete opposite. NC State failed to place anyone in the top 30 with Parsons leading the squad at 32nd place. Crawford was the second man, but feel way back to 85th. The rest of the scorers all finished between 106th and 117th. The team would finish a disappointing 13th place. Now it was the post season, and the expectations for the Wolfpack were low at ACC’s. Many dismissed the team as being inconsistent and left them out of their predictions. NC State had something to prove. The Wolfpack came thundering out of the gate and surprised the entire conference by stealing the runner-up spot from rival, UNC by five points. Parson and Crawford finally clicked by finishing 4th and 5th overall. Third and fourth men Sebastian Hanson and Bakri Abushouk all cracked the top 30 while fifth man Sam Roberson was 31st. It was a good day to be part of NC State. Now it was regionals and all eyes were on the Wolfpack to perform. The field was incredibly deep with each team holding huge amounts of depth. It would be an all out fight for an NCAA bid…and what a fight it was. Sure enough, the top four times were all known for their excellent depth. UVA, Furman, UNC, and Eastern Kentucky all got bids to NCAA’s while NC State was the first squad out, 35 points out from the 4th place squad. Parson’s would finish 4th overall and be the lone wolf to make NCAA’s. The rest of the pack would return home.

Many are probably surprised by NC State being this low (and I can’t blame them). But when you return two top veterans who have established themselves in a deep region and conference AND an experienced veteran from Washington (Meron Simon). That is a scary top three. As I’ve said before, I really like steeplechasers during XC season and Simon is a perfect steeplechase addition to NC State. A big weakness of NC State was trying to close the gap between the top two and the rest of their scorers. Meron will be the man to close that gap and bring forward the rest of the scorers. That of course, is the biggest weakness of this squad. While their top three are great, the younger guys are inconsistent. Luckily, Abushouk and Hanson will have gotten over that freshman year hump and go into this season most likely much more improved. Just think about some of the outstanding individuals NC State has had recently (Colley, Thomson, Parsons, Crawford). It’s a risk putting NC State this low with so much of their potential on two sophomores. Still, the potential is too high and the front-runners are too strong. Considering they bring back their entire top seven with an additional front-runner, you can’t help but really like this squad.

I remember looking at Flotrack’s rankings and think “Did they make a typo”? I’ll admit that my ranking of NC State at #17 might be generous, but 30th is just ridiculous. I’m not sure how returning all of those guys and adding a solid transfers puts them that far back. Their conference and region is still extremely difficult, but I think the 22nd/21st spot would be a more reasonable compromise between our rankings. I’m hoping the Wolfpack backs me up on this.

etrain Mailbag is like Arnold: Back

by etrain11

The etrain mailbag is returning! Get your questions in for etrain by email, in comments or on twitter @TheRealTrain11. He won't be bringing you any top 500 lists, but he should still have some tricks up his sleeves for his fans. Get involved and have your voice heard! To get everybody excited, here's a little mailbag from some fake readers ...

What gives etrain? I thought you already took your vacation! Where have you been? - loyalfan
Well I used basically all of my family's monthly data in a week watching the world championships on my phone on the way into work. So then my internet privileges were provoked and there was no way I was going to be able to post.

Ok no one buys that? Alright the truth is I was adding up all the best 1600m, 3200m and 5000m times to make a ranking system for the blog. So I was way too busy to do any posting.

Alright, I admit that list sounds pretty made up and ridiculous, you caught me that's a lie too. Honestly truth, I've been working on recruiting meet directors to send results our way for the new site we are preparing: I've got high hopes for it, but it's going to take a lot of work.

But I figure now is the time because during the season I will be doing my Top 50 every Tuesday, the Mailbag every Thursday or Friday (possible biweekly) and Team Rankings every 2-3 weeks. I will be hibernating these next couple days to prepare.

What meet are you looking forward to most this first weekend? - Lief Erikson
Even though it likely won't be bringing any of the 15:18 type times of old with the new course set up, the Viking Invitational is the one to watch. I'm intrigued to see Brophy racing in early September considering that his ultimate goal is to win the national championship in December. I don't expect him to be in top shape just yet, he's got some time to build up. That could potentially leave him open for an upset (although it's still going to be near impossible to beat Brophy).

It also will be fun to watch CB East and CB West, a couple of rivals with serious state aspirations racing each other for the first of many battles. CR North always comes to this meet, but they usually are not in top form just yet (for good reason). All the same, I'm curious who is going to step into the leadership roles on that squad, this is our first chance to take a look.

Apparently Henderson is entered? But Oakburne is this weekend so I'm not really expecting to see them toe the line with these other squads. Still something to keep an eye on I suppose.

Which individuals do you expect to steal the show this first weekend? - Curious Felix the Cat
The obvious name here is Hockenbury who came out guns blazing in week one last year in the first weekend (I believe he will be at Cliff Robins). If you haven't seen his logs, then I can summarize for you: the kid is working hard. I picked him to make footlocker nats last year as a surprise upset pick and, unfortunately, he just missed out. This year he seems driven to avenge last year's finish. Obviously, you don't want to be too sharp too soon, but I'd like to see how this year's time compares to last year's.

I also want to see what Tucker Desko is able to do for Pennridge at the Viking Invitational. The guy had a really impressive stretch run to the track season and could really shine this season. But there are always questions about how a track guy will transition to the trails.

Out west at the Gateway Invitational, I'll be watching for Casey Conboy and Jake Susalla. Conboy looked very strong on the track towards the end of last spring after some stand out races on the trails in the fall. He is a sleeper out of the WPIAL this year. Susalla is arguably the favorite for the WPIAL title this year in XC after a fantastic year in 2014. How does he handle the pressure in his first appearance of 2015?

How bad will the Sixers be this year? Should I just enter into a coma until 2020? - AI Fan90
Here's the thing, yes the Sixers will of course be bad. If we aren't bad enough, we will get worse. That's all part of the plan. But here's the thing, I'm hoping to catch a few games this year and I'm kinda looking forward to it. Like of course we will be bad, but we have some fun dudes and we finally have a Rookie who is 100% healthy! Plus we could realistically have two top five picks next year in the draft! And we are still waiting on Dario to come back over!

And as long no one points out the reality of the situation and how we have wasted multiple seasons on three dudes who practically play the same position, one of which might never play at a decent level and we still are no closer to getting to a top level in a horrible conference then I will continue to be excited!

You play any fantasy football? Who is on the squad this year? - Sam Radford
I had the first pick in my fantasy league this last weekend and I could have had anybody in the league. I decided on Demarco Murray. And I handicapped him later on with Darren Sproles.

See the above question for clarification on my being a huge homer.

Give us a bold prediction for this weekend to finish off the mailbag - putem onda spot
The fastest time of the weekend will come from somebody who is not on the etrain top 50.

And no that doesn't count the 2.35 miler at Enos Yeager.

Etrain Team Power Rankings: #18 Tulsa Golden Hurricanes

18. Tulsa Golden Hurricanes
Flotrack’s #18: Washington Huskies
Coach: Steve Gulley
Notable Departures: Tim Rackers, Danny Thater, Adam Palamer
Notable Additions:
Luke Traynor (transfer), Braydon Rennie  (Canada) Jay Ort (Canada), Stuart McNutt
Projected Scoring Five: Marc Scott (SR) [ET#22], Ben Preisner (SO), Luke Traynot (JR), Elijah Silva (SO), Braydon Rennie (FR)
I have a bit of a soft spot for the Tulsa Hurricanes after I robbed Marc Scott of a better ranking in the Top 50 List. What I like about Tulsa, is that they have a history of recruiting excellent talent and improving that talent every year. 2015 is no different. Coach Gulley has brought in overseas athletes this fall to make up for the seniors they lost as well as build on their depth.

Much like Colorado St. and Furman, Tulsa entered last season with many people unsure of what to expect from them. After a quick ‘B-team’ duel meet against Oklahoma, the real action would start at the Notre Dame Invite for the Hurricanes. The top squad would go out against a stacked and deep field looking to make a good first impression on the 2015 season. Unfortunately, the first-race rust would hold Tulsa back. The Hurricanes would finish a decent 10th overall (7 points away from 9th), but failed to make an impact. Although Scott finished in a solid 29th place, a top 10 finish would’ve been appropriate for a man of his caliber.  The next stop on the schedule would be Pre-Nats where the competition would be much stronger than Notre Dame. Many would dismiss Tulsa from their predictions considering their unexciting ND performance. That, however, would turn out to be a poor decision as Tulsa shocked the nation by beating Colorado St. on the tiebreaker and placing 5th overall in an dominant field. Scott would hold his own in a star-studded field and place 11th. His teammate Tim Rackers snagged 34th. The rest of the scoring five took up spots throughout 71st and 82nd place putting the team score a bit higher than it should’ve been. Nonetheless, it was a great performance and deserved to be applauded. The Golden Hurricanes would eventually walk in to AAC’s and cruise through the competition taking the top three spots and defeating runner-up Cincinnati by 63 points. Conferences was just the warm-up to the big showdown. With Oklahoma State losing big names to graduation, and Tulsa on the rise, could the Hurricanes actually take the Midwest regional title? Many thought it could be done, but alas, Tulsa was out matched by OKST and settled for a second place finish 14 points behind the Pokes. Although they didn’t get the title, Tulsa had to be happy considering they had never had a top-two team finish since 1997*. Tulsa would enter 2014 NCAA’s making it their 4th straight visit. But this time, they would have the comfort of an auto-bid. Having made school history, Tulsa stepped to the line with a bit more confidence. Tulsa could very well fight for a top-10 spot and establish themselves as a power-program. That plan, however, did not go as planned as the Golden Hurricanes got caught in the mass waves of talent. Scott continued to shine and grabbed 14th overall. But only his teammate Tim Rackers cracked the top 100 while their 5th man hurt their score with his 220th place finish. Overall, Tulsa grabbed 25th with the next three teams in front of them all within 6 points. It wasn’t a pretty day for the Golden Hurricanes.

*1997 was the earliest year I could find online results for. Tulsa’s most recent runner-up or title finish could’ve been earlier than 1997 making their 2014 performance that much more impressive.  

When most teams lose three of their top five, they go through a rebuilding process. If you’re the Tulsa Hurricanes, you reload. Marc Scott returns to lead a talented squad back to NCAA’s and avenge their 25th place finish. There is only so much Scott can do in the scoring however. He has already placed so low that the best impact he can have on the scoring is about 10 points better. Ben Preisner returns this season as a sophomore after a great freshman year on the track. The youngster ran 8:53 for the steeplechase last spring which is a great sign considering the success steeplechasers have had during XC. His first year experience is huge and hopefully that experience will correlate to an improved season. Elijah Silva is another rising sophomore that has plenty of potential. With one year under his belt and a 3:47 1500, look for him to make an impact. Yet, the real difference makers will be the men from Canada and Great Britain. Luke Traynor will team up with his fellow countryman, Marc Scott, and look to be the third/fourth man that can close the gap between the top two. The freshman on this squad will probably fill the rest of the varisty and contribute some excellent depth. McNutt had an outstanding XC last fall placing 10th at NXN AND 21st at Footlocker. Clearly, the kid is durable. Jay Ort and Braydon Rennie of Canada are both sub 8:30 3k guys and it’s impossible to think they won’t improve in their first year of collegiate running. The potential with this team is endless. Unfortunately, that’s just what this team is: potential. They need to execute their race plans and stay healthy. If each individual can progress and improve to their expected fitness, then watch for this team to return to NCAA’s even stronger than last season.

When I look at Flotrack’s ranking of Tulsa (28th), I scratch my head and wonder how that could be. I understand the argument that there are of a ton of new guys in a new program, but there is too much depth and potential to think that Tulsa can’t return to the talent level they were at least year. I’m not sure how teams like NAU, Georgetown, and Washington are ahead of this team after losing so many names. 18th may be a bit of a generous ranking, but I believe it’s much more fair than 28th.

Etrain Team Power Rankings: #19 Colorado State Rams

Flotrack’s #19: Georgetown Hoyas
Coach: Art Siemers
Notable Departures: Alex Dillenbeck, Byron Jones, Andrew Goodman
Notable Additions:
Eric Hamer
Projected Scoring Five: Jerrell Mock (SO) [ET#34], Jefferson Abbey (JR) [ET#31], Grant Fischer (SO), Eric Hamer (FR), Adam Hartman (JR)
Colorado State is probably the biggest up-and-coming program in the nation. Coach Siemers has done an outstanding job improving the program over his brief three years at CSU. He has developed young guys into top tier talent and is making an impact in a region that is one of the best in the nation. Their potential, experience, and firepower upfront puts them at #19 in the rankings.

Colorado State started off last season with an easy home opener against Colorado and Northern Colorado. It was clear that no team was at full strength, but nonetheless, CSU got a win under their belt to start off the season. The real first test would be at Roy Griak. No one was quite sure what to expect from the Rams. Most dismissed them as just another mid-pack team that would have one decent runner. That assumption would end up being completely false. The Rams burst out of the gate and destroyed the competition taking everyone by surprise. But the most amazing part was that the freshman Jerrell Mock placed 7th in a strong field. His sophomore teammate, Jefferson Abbey, complimented Mock’s performance with a 15th place finish. Their fifth man ended up in 56th and gave the Rams a 2nd place team finish, only 4 points off from Southern Utah. Colorado State had just shocked the nation. Could they do it again at Notre Dame with a much deeper field? Unfortunately, they could not. Abbey and Mock went 19th and 21st respectively, but the 81st place from their fifth man didn’t help and put the Rams in 7th place overall. It was still a very solid finish, and better than any had expected. Still, CSU had more to prove and they could do just that at a stacked Pre-Nats field where Colorado St. looked to silence the doubters. Mock had what was arguably the best freshman race of the year by placing 18th overall. Abbey finished a respectable 39th. But once again, their fifth man hurt them by falling to 112th and put CSU tied for 5th place overall (but lost to Tulsa on tiebreaker and ended up in 6th). Even with the loss on the tiebreaker, CSU showed that they were still a threat on the national scene. The conference title was very much within their grasp. The Rams entered the Mountain West conference expected to compete for the title. But when they left, they weren’t even the runner-up. New Mexico cruised for the win while Air Force upset CSU by three points. It was a surprisingly poor performance from the team that had shocked the nation week-in and week-out. The Rams would need to avenge themselves at regionals (Mountain), which was arguably the best region in the nation. This would be the true test to see just how good Colorado State was. The race was fast and the top individuals spread out the field. Mock and Abbey did their jobs by finishing 10th and 11th, but the tight pack running from other squads pushed the Rams out of contention. CSU finished 5th with Southern Utah once again beating them out by one spot. The 5th place finish was not at all what the Rams wanted. However, this 5th place finish was unique. Typically, the 5th place team would never dream of getting a bid to NCAA’s. However, 2014 year was different. Due to how deep the field was, the Rams would get one of FIVE ‘at-large’ bids out of the Mountain region. It was almost unheard of for seven teams to make it out of any region. Nonetheless, Colorado State would take their last chance to impress to Terre Haute. With such a strong regular season, but a sub-par postseason, the expectations for Colorado State were quite scattered. In the end, CSU would finish an unexciting 19th place which seemed to be a happy medium considering their up and down performances throughout the season. But the best part about it all? The Rams finally beat Southern Utah.

Now, Colorado State will come into this season with high hopes. While they do lose some seniors, there are still plenty of guys that can step up and continue to improve. One thing I like is that Mock and Abbey are in the perfect position as lead-men. They can still continue to improve and cut off points in the scoring while other lead-men like Cheserek, Zienasellassie, and Tiernan can barely improve in the scoring. Grant Fischer (no, not the one you’re thinking of) struggled early on in the season, but rallied and worked his way into the scoring squad. I expect him to progress this season. The next name I’m looking at is the freshman Eric Hamer. He is still young, but Coach Siemers has done an outstanding job developing young talent into national-caliber athletes in his short time at CSU (think Mock and Abbey). The only issue is the 5th man situation this squad is currently working with. Hartman didn’t have much of an impact last season and finished far off from the other scorers. They will need to find a reliable 5th man if this team is going to prosper in a region that will not get any easier. I’m also looking to see if they can show up in the post-season. Their regular season was solid and they were in a tough region, but I still want to see better results come November.

Colorado State was Flotrack’s #23 team. While I do have the Rams at #19, I can’t argue too much with Flotrack’s ranking. There are still a lot of questions and inconsistencies that could keep CSU from improving in the rankings so #23 seems reasonable. That said, they are also a much more established squad than the other teams I have ranked so far. They have been improving each year and it’s tough not to like the top two they have up front. Only time will tell if CSU can live up to the expectations, or falter in the hype.

Etrain Team Power Rankings: #20 Florida State Seminoles

20. Florida State Seminoles
Flotrack’s #20: Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
Coach: Bob Braman
Notable Departures: Glen Yarham, Tyler Udland, Antony Taylor
Notable Additions: Harry Mulenga (transfer), Andrew Coscoran (transfer), Tyler Anyan (transfer)
Projected Scoring Five: Jack Goodwin (SR), Zak Seddon (SR), Harry Mulenga (JR) Stanley Linton (JR), Andrew Coscoran (SO)
I feel like Florida State doesn’t get enough love. Coach Braman has done an excellent job turning decent recruits into studs. He has also been able to get top tier talent to come over from the UK and Australia to make FSU a national contender. The team is often unfairly criticized for cruising through their regional race and then not matching that performance at NCAA’s. Although, last season was a good example…

Florida State started off very strong during the beginning of last season. They cruised through the Virginia Tech Alumni Invite (which I ran in…didn’t go too well) and went 1-2-3. They also defeated UNC in the process. For the next three weeks, FSU would go back to the grind and continue to work on their fitness. That grind paid off at Notre Dame where the Noles put two in the top 20 and three in the top 40. Their fifth man finished in a respectable 53rd place. Overall, everyone executed their goal and gave FSU a 4th place team finish in a strong field with multiple nationally ranked teams. Things were going well for the Noles as they headed into a tougher field at Wisconsin. It was there that FSU would put three in the top 50. A rough race for fifth man Stanley Linton did hurt the team though. Nonetheless, FSU placed 9th overall with Michigan, Providence, New Mexico, and more all behind them. FSU was running well and it seemed that FSU was proving to the nation that they could be competitive outside of their weak region. Unfortunately, even with three in the top 20, FSU finished a surprising 5th at ACC’s. The reason why? Leader and number one man, Glen Yarham, was hurt and would be left out of competing for the rest of the season. It was a massive blow to the Seminoles and it showed. Determined to prove that they could prosper without Yarham, FSU went into regionals (South) to try and regain their 2012 title. Still, the absence of Yarham was too great and FSU was outmatched by Mississippi. FSU still got the auto-bid to nationals, but it was clear that they weren’t meeting the expectations they once had. The Seminoles traveled up north looking to make up for the past couple of meets. That, however, never happened. Florida State collapsed on the big stage finishing dead last with their top guy only placing 152nd. The trip back home would be a very, very, long drive.
FSU will enter this season hungry and looking for revenge. The critics will be ready to point out their nationals performance last season and regional champ Mississippi, will return even stronger. Yet, the Seminoles will be ready and prepared. Four of their top five (from regionals) return. It also helps that they will bring in transfers Harry Mulenga from Central Arizona CC and Andrew Coscoran from Ireland. The two transfers are both excellent milers and boast 5k PR’s of 14:30 (Mulenga) and 14:23 (Coscoran). While Yarham and Udland may be gone, they will be replaced with two guys more than capable of having an impact. The only question is, just how big of an impact will they have? The other man to watch for is the steeplechaser Zak Seddon, who dominated on the track this past spring. He is primed to be a contender on the national scene. I could even see him sneaking into the Top 50 List at some point this season. If FSU can stay healthy and be consistent, don’t be so sure that they’ll have a repeat of nationals from last season.

When I look at Flotrack’s #25 ranking for FSU, I have to admit that I think it’s pretty fair. Yarham was a huge loss and Udland graduating didn’t help either. However, I put FSU at #20 because they proved early on last season that they were dominant with Yarham. Now they bring in two very solid transfers to replace them and have a strong leader in Seddon. I’m also looking for Stanley Linton to step up and have an impact. Overall, there are too many pieces in my mind for FSU to be as high as #25, but I guess we will have to see if that’s true later this season.