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Six top-10 teams among nine ranked to start the season in Pac-12 cross country

Aug 31, 2022
Chuck Aragon/Stanford Athletics

SAN FRANCISCO – Six Pac-12 cross country teams appear in the top 10 to lead a national-best total of nine men’s and women’s programs in the preseason United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national rankings released on Wednesday.

USTFCCCA Women’s Poll (Preseason)
3. Colorado
5. Stanford
8. Washington
18. Utah
19. Oregon
25. Oregon State

USTFCCCA Men’s Poll (Preseason)
3. Stanford
5. Colorado
8. Washington
RV: Oregon

The only conference with multiple programs among the top 10 in both the women’s and men’s polls, the Pac-12’s six combined top-10 teams are double the next closest leagues (ACC - 2 women's/1 men's; Big 12 - 2 men's/1 women's). The Pac-12's combined nine ranked teams overall are the most of any conference in the country, highlighted by six top-25 women's programs. 

It's the seventh time in the past nine years that the Pac-12 has boasted at least three top-10 men's teams in the preseason poll. No other league has had a trio of men's programs in the top 10 of the initial rankings since the Big 12 in 2012. 

Pac-12 women have at least three preseason top-10 teams for the 12th consecutive season. Since 2011, all other conferences have combined to do that just four times (Big Ten - 2020; Mountain West - 2018; Big East - 2012, 2011).

Two former NCAA All-Americans return to Pac-12 women’s rosters this fall in Colorado's Emily Covert, who was 31st at least season's NCAA Championships, and Oregon State's Kaylee Mitchell, an All-American in 2020 after finishing 20th at that season's NCAA meet. Haley Herberg, the individual Conference champion and Pac-12 Athlete of the Year from 2020 (March 2021), is also back for Washington.

On the men’s side, five former NCAA All-Americans return to Pac-12 lineups, including two-time Stanford All-American Charles Hicks (2021, 2020), the reigning individual Conference champion and Pac-12 Athlete of the Year, and Cardinal All-American teammates Ky Robinson (2021) and Cole Sprout (2020). With Hicks and Robinson, the Cardinal are one of four programs in the country to return multiple All-Americans from a season ago (Northern Arizona - 4; Oklahoma State - 3; Harvard - 2). Also back is Washington senior Brian Fay, who earned All-America honors at his first NCAA Championships in 2021 by finishing 38th, and Oregon graduate student and All-American Aaron Bienenfeld, who finished 18th at last season's NCAA meet.

Ten Pac-12 teams open their racing schedules this weekend. The 2022 Pac-12 Championships will be hosted by USC for the first time since 2009 at UC Riverside’s Agricultural Operations Course on Friday, Oct. 28.

The NCAA Mountain and West Regionals will be held Friday, Nov. 11 in Albuquerque, N.M. and Tacoma, Wash., respectively, with teams advancing to the 2022 NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, Nov. 19.

The Pac-12 will be looking to add to its distinction as the winningest conference in NCAA Cross Country history this fall as current league members boast the most combined team national championships (29 – 16 men/13 women) and individual titles (29 – 25 men/4 women) of any league in the country.