* Weber Long finished third at the PIAA Class AA state cross country championship in 2020
Photo Credit: Don Rich/PennTrackXC
By Garrett Zatlin - MileSplit Recruiting Correspondent
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When it comes to the Class of 2022, it seems fair to say that the ACC has been the most exciting conference on the recruiting front.
Teams like Notre Dame, Virginia, North Carolina and NC State have all signed elite-level distance recruits, some more than others. However, there is yet another ACC program that is beginning to catch our attention: Wake Forest.
The Demon Deacons were recently the lucky recipients of rising distance star Weber Long, a senior at Greencastle-Antrim (PA) High School. The Pennsylvania native has proven to be a major force at the national level with personal bests of 8:58 for 3,200m and 14:55 at the 5K.
With Long now committed to join the Demon Deacons, the Wake Forest men have seemingly entered this year's ACC Recruiting Wars.
However, let's set aside our self-created conference recruiting contest and focus on something more important: Future results.
Last year, the men from Wake Forest ended up being one of the biggest and best surprises from the 2020-21 Covid-altered cross country seasons.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Velasco was having a huge breakout year, Coen Roberts was a stud freshman and Ben Mitchell emerged as a promising backend contributor.
Simply put, Wake Forest had all of the necessary pieces to become a juggernaut squad in immediate present and the years to come.
Admittedly, some of those top talents may be out of cross country eligibility by the time Weber steps foot on campus, or at the very least, they would have only a single year with their newest star rookie.
Not only that, but Weber is arguably better on the track than he is on the grass. The current Greencastle-Antrim senior would likely need a year -- maybe even two -- before he puts himself in contention for a varsity spot.
Still, Weber is someone who has tantalizing potential and there are a handful of top names from this Wake Forest cross country team who could still be around two or three years from now, especially if the Deacons' coaching staff opts to redshirt certain men this fall.
Trying to balance the current firepower of this squad and the eventual arrival of Weber Long seems unnecessary and challenging. The Demon Deacons are in "win now" mode and don't necessarily need to work around someone who could be a varsity contributor.
However, the latest results from the adidas XC Challenge were incredibly promising for Wake Forest, especially when we talk about their future.
In that race, Wake Forest fielded eight men. Of those eight, three of them were freshmen. They took the second, third and fourth in Wake Forest's lineup during that race.
Admittedly, Wake Forest held out most of their top names from the adidas XC Challenge, with the exception of Pinillos. That, however, made their result that much more impressive.
The Demon Deacons secured third-place as a team, losing to University of North Carolina (first) and NC State (second) -- two programs that were fielding almost all of their best talents.
Clearly, Wake Forest has a very promising young core that it can rally around and develop over the next few years. From that perspective, Long's eventual introduction to this program will have come at the perfect time.
By the time Long arrives in Winston-Salem, he'll still have time to make his own adjustments to college, build up his mileage and emerge as the top-five scoring threat that many think he can be.
Before Long even announced his college decision, Wake Forest was in a win-win situation.
This season, the Deacons' coaching staff has the flexibility of going all-in with their top talents, redshirting some of their top scorers, leaning on their youngsters or doing a mix of all three.
We don't truly know what future iterations of the Demon Deacons' varsity lineups are going to look like, but the future is promising. Whether he'll be needed on day one of his collegiate career or two years down the road, Long gives Wake Forest a building block who can eventually emerge as the lethal scoring threat that they'll need him to be.
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