We're days away from the 2022 DI cross country championships and there are plenty of contenders for the title. However, four teams (conveniently the top four ranked teams) stand above the rest. Let's make a case for each of the four teams to win the title, highlighting their biggest strengths.
No. 1 Stanford
Stanford has a great shot at winning its first title since 2003, thanks to three elite top runners. Charles Hicks leads the bunch as one of the favorites to win the individual title. Hicks set a course record in the Pac-12 Championship and is the top returning finisher from last year's championships. Cole Sprout and Ky Robinson make up the rest of the Cardinal top three, with Robinson running the fastest time ever on the Nuttycombe Invitational's new course.
Speaking of the Nutty, Stanford won the invitational as a team. That's a good sign, as eight of the last 14 team cross country champions across genders have won the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational during the same year. If Stanford can get their top three runners to live up to expectations while having their 4-5 runners finish inside the top 20, the Cardinal could lift the trophy.
CHAMPIONSHIP COVERAGE: Follow the 2022 cross country championships here
No. 2 Northern Arizona
The easy case for Northern Arizona to win the 2022 championship is that the Lumberjacks are a cross country dynasty, winning five of the last six titles. A deeper dive shows that Northern Arizona has arguably the best runner in the country in Nico Young. If Young wins the race, the Lumberjacks will turn to Drew Bosley for the team's second-best finish. Both Young and Bosley have the potential to finish in the top five, carrying Northern Arizona to a three-peat. If recent years have shown us anything, we can't doubt a Mike Smith-coached team.
No. 3 BYU
BYU lost last year's individual champion Conner Mantz, but Casey Clinger has stepped up as 2022's top runner for the Cougars. Clinger is one of the best in the nation and could very well make it back-to-back individual titles for the Cougars. Clinger won't be alone at nationals as Brandon Garnica and Joey Nokes add to BYU's top three.
BYU's depth has been on display all season, with four runners finishing in the top 15 at regionals and five runners in the top 16 through 6K at the Nuttycombe Invitational. Like the Nutty, Cougars should be in the thick of the team race at nationals through 6K. With a strong kick to close the race, BYU could put a gap in Northern Arizona's dynasty.
No. 4 Oklahoma State
The 2022 DI cross country championship will be run at... Oklahoma State. One of the best teams in the country gets to compete for the title on its home course. If that wasn't enough, the Cowboys have runners that could win the title individually.
Isai Rodriguez found his groove again after winning the Midwest regional. Alex Maier won the Big 12 championship by 15.3 seconds and won the Cowboy Jamboree, a race that was held at Oklahoma State. Victor Shitsama rounds out the top three.
Oklahoma State finished third at the DI championships in 2021, and with home-course advantage in 2022, the Cowboys could jump to No. 1.
- While the four teams listed above have been the top four teams throughout the majority of the season, Tulsa is rising, fast. The Golden Hurricanes won a tiebreaker with Oklahoma State to win the Midwest regional. Another performance like that and Tulsa could make the podium.
- The Vols have two runners in Dylan Jacobs and Yaseen Abdalla that are capable of top-two finishes, but Tennessee's 3-4-5 runners aren't enough to contend with the elite.