The Top 10 Sophomore Boys To Watch This XC Season

* Owen Clemons is the top sophomore to watch in 2023

Photo Credit: Tennessee MileSplit

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The top 10 sophomore boys to watch this fall? 

It's a hard list to gather, considering the Class of 2026 boys were developing at ridiculous rates over the winter and spring seasons in 2023. But there were some obvious candidates -- and some also not-so-obvious picks -- we have come to recognize. 

Below, we highlight the top 10 sophomore boys to begin the fall cross country season. 

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Related Links: 

Our Top 50 Boys Recruits In The Class of 2026

Honorable MentionJamison Ping, Valley Christian (AZ); Maximo Zavaleta, Riverside Martin Luther King (CA); Aaron Brodrick, Oconee County (GA); Malachi Burnett, Creekview (GA); Marcus Adelman, New Philadelphia (OH); Jacob Mitchell, Bloomington North (IN): Radek Molchan, Knoxville Catholic (TN); Canaan Dunham, Pella (IA); Kehler Vaughn, Brentwood (TN);  Alexander Krieg, Palatine (IL); Grady Lenn, De Pere (WI); Cameron Yarbrough, San Diego Del Norte (CA). 

Series Review: 

The Top 10 Freshmen Girls To Watch In XC

The Top 10 Freshmen Boys To Watch In XC

10. Ryan Tuohy

North Rockland (NY)

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This is somewhat of a projection, considering Tuohy's returning 5K time of 16:07.00 puts him just inside the top 75 performers for his class from last year. 

But how can you argue? He's the brother of Katelyn Tuohy, the greatest cross country athlete we've ever seen on the girls side. Ryan Tuohy's freshman season was very good, too, with a win at the Section 1 Championship, a top 10 finish at the Six Flags Wild Safari Invite and a top 30 finishes at states and the federation championships. 

9. Jaden Merrick

Cedar Falls (IA)

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Merrick's top 5K only placed him inside the top 21 performers for the freshmen class in 2022, but numbers don't often tell the full story. 

He authored seven performances under 16 minutes -- a level of consistency few freshmen matched last year -- and performed well at the Iowa Class 4A Championships, finishing 18th overall. That was the top freshman performance at states in Iowa. 

Merrick, our 49th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2026, also ran well at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships, crossing the silver race in 20th place in 16:03.40. Only three freshmen were faster in the gold race -- Clemons, Strohman and HM pick Kehler Vaughn.  

What speaks to his potential, though was his efforts over the outdoor season. Merrick ran times of 4:14.79 in the 16,600m and 9:12.88 in the 3,200m, efforts which placed him fourth and sixth in his class over the season. 

8. Luke Snyder

Rittman (OH)

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Few freshman in the country won as much as Snyder in 2022. He roped off 10 wins over his first year in high school, capturing victories at the Wooster Invitational, the Tuslaw Invite and the WCAL League Championship. 

In the ones that truly mattered, Snyder did not drop off, either. He was first in his OHSAA District 3-9 race and then second at the OHSAA Division 3 championships. 

His best performance for 5K actually came in his last race. He ran 15:37.00 to finish 61st at the Nike Midwest Regional. 

7. Noah Bontrager

Topeka Westview (IN)

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Last year our top cross country runner of the year, Kole Mathison, was from Indiana. Could Bontrager be tracing his steps toward the national elite? 

He certainly had an outstanding freshman campaign, pumping in six wins across the season, including recognitions at his section and regional races. He also won his Semi-State 2 race, doing so with a 5K PR of 15:20.80. 

And then he would finish his season at states, clocking a time of 15:41.00 to finish 12th. Indiana is a one-and-done race, and considered among the most difficult to qualify for. Bontrager was the top freshman in the state in 2022.

6. Landon Kimmel

Tipp City Tippecanoe (OH)

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Kimmel was tasked with being his team's No. 1 in 2023. He did not disappoint. 

He won five races as a freshman, finished fifth at the Trinity/Valkyrie Invitational and was fourth at regions. At the Division I state championships, Kimmel was 25th overall and the top freshman finisher. 

From there, he closed his season at the Nike Midwest Regional, rounding up a 30th-place finish. 

5. Matthew Wroblewski 

Portland Jesuit (OR)

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Facts are facts, and Wroblewski was top freshman at Nike Cross Nationals in 2022. 

That's a strong resume builder for the rising sophomore, who was 115th at NXN. What's more? His Portland Jesuit squad finished second overall at the meet. 

His best performance for 5K came in October at the Metro League Championships when he offered a finishing time of 15:35.60.  

He was also 19th at the Oregon Class 6A championships as Jesuit claimed a state team title. 

4. Noah Strohman

Holliday (TX)

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Is there a stronger small school runner at this point?

Strohman is coming off an incredible outdoor season that saw him run a time of 4:07.84 in the 1,600m and 4:09.23 in the mile, both No.1s for the class. Furthermore, those times ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for freshmen all-time, too. 

In cross country, he went under 16 minutes over his final five meets, including a PR of 15:19.80 at the McNeil Invitational and a time of 15:49.50 at the UIL Class 3A championships, his first title-winning run. 

Strohman, our third-ranked recruit in the Class of 2026, followed with a 30th-place finish at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships.

3. Rocco Culpepper

Boulder Niwot (CO)

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Call it the Culpepper affect. 

Rocco is the younger brother of Cruz Culpepper, an all-time performer in Colorado, and the son of Alan Culpepper and Shayne Culpepper, Olympians and former professional runners.

Alan was recently the head coach of NAZ Elite in Flagstaff.

Rocco, our 41st-ranked recruit in the Class of 2026, simply charts toward stardom. 

His freshmen season did nothing to disapprove that notion, with a 5K PR of 15:18.90 in October.

He won his Region 4A-3 meet in October and then earned a top 10 finish at states.

He trains at altitude with some of the best runners in the U.S., and that matters, too. Niwot is a team full of top performers. Rocco ran 4:16.26 outdoors in the 1,600m.

Southlake Carroll (TX)

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A lot of things work in Leonard's favor to place him in this position. 

He's the second-fastest returner for 5K in cross country nationally, the fastest for 3-miles in his class and the top runner for 5K outdoors for all freshmen -- by a full 38 seconds. 

But he's also a coaches son, he was the top finisher for Southlake Carroll at the Texas state championships and he largely punched above his weight at national competitions.

He also was the second-best freshman finisher at NXN. 

Results, and X factors like those, all add up to make Leonard one of the top sophomores this year. 

Leonard, our 14th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2026, also reached the Texas state outdoor championships in the 3,200m. While that race that didn't play in his favor -- he was last -- the lessons learned from his freshman season will go a long way. 

1. Owen Clemons

Cleveland (TN)

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Clemons owns the honor of being the fastest cross country returner for 5K in his class, with a personal best time of 15:01.90 that was achieved last October in Tennessee. 

But that was only half of the story. 

Clemons ran twice that day -- October 1, 2022 -- and ultimately would end up finishing sixth in 15:10.10 at the Jesse Owens Classic in Alabama, a race conducted in Oakville that morning, before he would race again that night in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and would execute on his personal best time of 15:01.90 at the Saturday Light Fever. 

You don't see that very often. 

Clemons, our 10th-ranked recruit in the Class of 2026, would go on to win his region and then the TSSAA AAA state championship in 15:22.47 before finishing his fall at the Garmin RunningLane Cross Country Championships. 

No stranger to national competition, Clemons ran 4:18 for the mile indoors and 1:54 (800m), 4:14 (mile) and 9:12 (3,200m) outdoors.