The Top 10 Recruiting Stories Of The Past Year

As the saying goes, 'Recruiting never sleeps.' 

That much was true in 2021, as a variety of big moves were made over the course of the year.

And it hit all kinds of NCAA channels, from Power 5 teams locking up the country's foremost blue-chip athletes, to mid-majors boosting their credibility and joining the fun with talented recruiting hauls of their own. 

Even an Ivy-league program not typically known for scoring massive recruiting wins may have changed the course of its future with its best recruiting class in years. 

Check out the top stories of recruiting over 2021 below. 

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The Class of 2024's Top Girls Recruits

10. Potential Recruiting Impacts For New NIL Rules

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Publish Date: July 8, 2021

When new legislation was passed within the NCAA this year that allowed student-athletes to monetize their Name, Image and Likeness, it ultimately created a groundswell of possible opportunities for track and field athletes. Garrett Zatlin wrote about the few ways in which the new rule would impact athletes.

Any way you look at it, this development is a massive one. Young athletes with large followings or significant amounts of influence will now have the opportunity to pursue their financial endeavors without jeopardizing their collegiate eligibility.
The mass impact that this decision has across the entirety of the sport is significant. We break down some of the key factors below. 

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9. The New Era At Oregon Is Coming With Rheinhardt Harrison And Larry Josh Edwards

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Publish Date: September 1, 2021

When Rheinhardt Harrison and Larry Josh Edwards both committed to Oregon in August, it potentially signaled a smooth transition of talent between the Ducks of recent years -- Cooper Teare, Cole Hocker, Charlie Hunter -- to the future Ducks of 2022 and beyond.

There's no doubt that Harrison and Edwards are two of the country's top distance recruits. And with both committing to the same, storied program, perhaps only good things can come of it.

The level of overwhelming firepower that these two young men will eventually bring to Eugene couldn't be more clear. However, it's more than just their overall talent that makes their commitments so special. 
Few recruits are rarely the perfect roster fits that both Harrison and Josh Edwards are. The Oregon men have prided themselves as being the absolute best in the nation when it comes to developing milers.
On paper, there are but a few places in the nation to become a sub-four miler in short order, and Eugene might be No. 1 on that list. 
That fact is why Harrison and Josh Ewards are such suitable pieces. Both of these high school superstars have developed their reputation in the mile and in all likelihood, will carry that trend with them into the NCAA.

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8. North Carolina A&T Lands Blue-Chip Talents Lucheyona Weaver And Leonard Mustari

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Publish Date: March 25, 2021

In recent years, North Carolina A&T blossomed under the guidance of head coach Duane Ross. Over that span, he built the Aggies into a national contender, with athletes capable of claiming individual and team relay titles. How much further is Ross away from a national team title of his own? He might not be too far off if he keeps winning in recruiting. 

His grassroots approach to recruiting has been a major boost to the program in recent years. That success didn't change in 2021. With the additions of Lucheyona Weaver and Leonard Mustari, the Aggies could continue to develop their roster into national championship contenders at the NCAA level. 

On Wednesday, the Aggies landed a blue-chip package deal, as Fort Myers Dunbar seniors Lucheyona Weaver and Leonard Mustari made their collegiate decisions official in a signing ceremony among family and friends. Mustari, the No. 20 ranked boys recruit in MileSplit's latest rankings in November, and Weaver, the No. 33 ranked girls prospect, add the kind of high-caliber potential that could boost an already booming program. The Aggies are coming off a fifth-place men's team finish at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships under head coach Duane Ross. Conference wide, the program has dominated in the MEAC over the last half decade. 

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7. Yale Forming Quality Men's Recruiting Class

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Publish Date: October 6, 2021

Who would have thought that Yale would capture one of the top five distance running classes of 2022? Few would have predicated it. 

But as Garrett Zatlin writes, that's exactly where the Bulldogs find themselves, with a diamond in Kenan Pala and top-level athletes such as Braden King and Alex Mader in the mix for 2022 and beyond. 

If this trio's long distance success translates to the NCAA, then they may be the biggest recruiting steals of the year.
Perhaps what is Harkin's most impressive recruiting accomplishment is that he has landed all three of these recruits from the complete opposite side of the country. 
Yes, it's true, Yale is an incredibly prestigious university and is considered to be one of the best academic institutions in the country. That alone could incentivize almost any recruit to venture to New Haven, Connecticut. 
But to do all of this in one recruiting season? Well, maybe that means we're looking at the Ivy League's next great distance program.

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6. The Toledo Women Are Making Waves In Recruiting, And Are Winning

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Publish Date: September 29, 2021

Not so long ago, a program like the Furman women came along under the guidance of Rita Gary and turned into one of the nation's top teams, thanks in large part to her recruiting efforts. Fast track over to 2021.

That same trend could be happening at Toledo, where coach Andrea Grove-McDonough has captured her best class, just two years after being hired to take this team to the next level. 

On Wednesday, Toledo landed the women's program's biggest recruit to date in Saratoga Springs (NY) senior Ella Kurto. In recent weeks, though, Toledo also got pledges from Indiana state champ Karina James and fellow Indiana standout Bailey Ranta

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5. UTSA Landed The Untapped Potential Of Jose Garcia

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Publish Date: June 4, 2021

One of the shocking developments out of Texas high school track and field in 2021 was the potential of Jose Garcia. The Harlingen (TX) senior rode into the Texas State Championships as one of many quality standouts in Class 6A.

But few expected him to win a state title, or moreover, run one of the fastest high school times in the country for 100m. But that's exactly what he did. And just a few weeks later, Garcia committed to UTSA.

Just how big is this get for UTSA? The Roadrunners could be getting a future NCAA Championship and All-American contender by Year 1, and potentially an athlete with the kind of potential that could make it beyond the collegiate realm. That's a lot of pressure to put on any 18-year-old. But Garcia could be a special talent. Garcia's wind-legal 200m performance would stand at No. 2 in UTSA history. His wind-assisted 100m time would be No. 2 in history. Just two years after finishing ninth at state in the 100m -- in a field that was ultimately won by current University of Georgia star Matthew Boling -- Garcia was one of Texas' brightest 100m prospects, hitting times of 10.00, 10.17w, 10.36, 10.47 and 10.49 on the clock. Wind-assisted performances or not, the prevalence of so many top-level times indicate that Garcia was no fluke.

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4. ACC Programs Are Battling For Recruits. Here's The Latest.

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Publish Date: Sept. 8, 2021

In September, just two months before the beginning of the National Letter of Intent period, ACC teams were battling for some of the country's biggest recruits. As Garrett Zatlin writes, those same teams seemed to be in a Recruiting War between each other. 

Last year's recruiting cycle was a historic one.
Coaches, families and athletes attempted to navigate the tricky recruiting regulations and logistics that had stemmed from the global pandemic. Trying to make the most informed decision on a future had never been more challenging.
However, the Class of 2021 was also historic for a different reason.
Last year's group would mark the start of numerous ACC cross country programs engaging in an all-out, multi-month recruiting battle, each with a single goal in mind: Land the nation's best young distance runners. 

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3. Jenna Hutchins' XC Season Is Done, Will Enroll At BYU Early

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Publish Date: November 1, 2021

In November, MileSplit learned that Science Hill senior Jenna Hutchins would forgo her final seasons of eligibility in high school, graduate early and enroll at Brigham Young University, the school she committed to in April of 2021.

The previous November and December, Hutchins had claimed two national records, becoming the first girl in high school history to go under 16 minutes for 5K in cross country at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships. She followed it up by securing an overall national 5K record on the track in December, clocking a time of 15:34. 

The 2021 cross country season was supposed to be her last high school season before an early graduation and a gap year to get stronger. 
But that equation has changed just slightly. 
Hutchins will still be graduating early from Science Hill, though she will now enroll at Brigham Young University on January 3, MileSplit recently learned. 
But while Hutchins did not race her senior cross country season, she'll certainly leave a lasting legacy.

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If all of BYU's top scorers do return, then the addition of Hutchins in the fall of 2022 will surely could solidify the BYU women as the clear national title favorites for the next couple of seasons. The Cougars' incoming class, by the way, is top tier, with talents like Analee Weaver, Carmen Alder, Lizzi Dildine and Eliza Arrington. 

2. What Udodi Onwuzurike's Success At U20s Means For Stanford

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Date Published: August 23, 2021

How often does a program get surprised in recruiting? If we're talking years down the line, the odds are greater.

But when you're recruiting an athlete out the gate, you typically have a feel for what kind of individual you're bringing into your lineup. Udodi Onwuzurike was a special case in 2021.

The Brother Rice (MI) senior blossomed into one of the country's foremost sprint stars and ended the year as a World U20 champion. It's safe to say Stanford is pinching itself. 

We've known that Onwuzurike is a talented sprinter, but seeing the Brother Rice High School graduate compete on the world stage and drop a wind-legal, meet-winning time of 20.21 (+05) seconds in the 200m has forced us to reevaluate our expectations. That winning time was part of three performances under 21 seconds over the competition. 
For perspective, that result was only 0.01 seconds shy of Slade's U.S. No. 1 mark of 20.20 from earlier this year. But perhaps even greater is the potential return on investment for Stanford, which bought into his talent early.
To be clear, Onwuzurike's signing last fall was a good one. But few could have expected the drastic improvements he made to finish out the year.
By 2022, he could arrive as one of the biggest recruiting steals from the Class of 2021.
In fact, he will enter the Stanford program with personal record times that are faster than the Stanford men's all-time outdoor records of 10.39 (Wopamo Osaisai, 2005) and 20.33 (James Lofton, 1978). 

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1. This BYU Coach Is Building A Strong Recruiting Reputation

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Publish Date: January 27, 2021

Hired in 2016 by BYU, Diljeet Taylor was rolling with the women's program by 2021.

The former All-American at Cal State Stanislaus led the squad to an 11th, 7th and runner-up finishes at the NCAA Championships from a three-year period between 2017-2019.

By 2021, her women's team was a threat to win. 

In the time that Taylor began to oversee the women's distance squad, BYU had been rocketing up the national ranks each and every year. In 2016, the women from Provo finished 10th at the NCAA Championships and nearly matched that performance in 2017 with an 11th place result. Then in 2018, the Cougars scored a seventh-place finish. 
All of this is to say that Coach Taylor has drastically altered the trajectory of this team for the better.
And now young high school distance stars have begun to take notice over the past few years.
But while it's important to note that the Cougars were successful in their recruiting efforts during the early days of Taylor's coaching tenure, the past few recruiting classes have been absolutely loaded with star distance talents.

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The coda to this story? In March, Taylor's BYU women won that coveted NCAA title they had been chasing, securing the overall team championship. Eight months later, BYU followed that up by finished second overall at the 2021 championships. Senior Whittni Orton won the individual title