The Recruiting Game

Seven athletes already verbally commit to Stanford next fall

(Photo by Scott Bush)

Despite the NCAA dropping the early decision option for high school athletes prior to the 2007-2008 school year, the top distance runners are committing themselves to their future college in large numbers. National editor Scott Bush takes a closer look at the recruiting process and where the stars of the sport plan to attend next fall.

The Recruiting Game

School, practice, homework, friends and family. For most high school athletes their life revolves around those five things. However, as senior year floats upon a star athlete, the college recruiting game asserts itself into the mix as well. As if deciding upon a college isn't pressure-filled enough for any student, imagine fielding numerous calls a night with coaches wanting to talk to you about everything, but most of all what they can offer you.

Often, athletes bypassed the long drudgery of the recruiting game by signing with a college during the early-signing period early in their cross country seasons. However, the NCAA announced this season that the early-signing period was no longer, thus opening up the recruiting process even more so. While the entire process may wear on thousands of athletes each season, many are taking matters into their own hands and making verbal commitments before the holiday season arrives, making other schools aware that they are off the market.

Increased media attention on the recruiting game makes verbal commitments in sports such as basketball and football seem more like cheap talk rather than committed action. Dozens of star athletes each season back out of their verbal commitments, deciding to go elsewhere, leaving the original college scratching their head and looking for other options. However, this problem occurs less frequently in the cross country/track and field landscape.

With well over half of the senior competitors at Foot Locker Nationals verbally committed to a university of college next fall, a few respected institutions stand out. Stanford leads the recruiting game thus far with four elite tier boys and three elite tier girls choosing the Cardinal as their future team. Chris Derrick (IL), Kevin Havel (IL) and Ben Johnson (NM) provide the squad with three top seven finishers at Foot Locker Nationals over the past two years, while Emilie Amaro (FL), Georgia Griffin (NH) and Kristin Reese (NY) ran under 10:35 last spring in the two-mile.

A few other universities are establishing themselves early. Princeton heard "YES" from Alexandra Banfich (IN), Brian Leung (NJ) and Max Kaulbach (PA), while Florida State and Wisconsin breath a little easier with two athletes committed a piece. Foot Locker champion Mike Fout (IN) and Ohio miler Cory Leslie are to be Seminoles (Florida State), while Midwest champions Rob Finnerty (MN) and Maverick Darling (MI) plan to call Madison (Wisconsin) their home next fall.

The recruiting game pushes pressure on student-athletes like never before. Each year college coaches become a bit more driven to lock up an athlete, which certainly causes immense pressure on the athlete when they have a dozen programs knocking on their door or dialing them up every week. The game is difficult, anxiety ridden and tiring, but in the end an athlete finds their school and can breathe a little easier.

List of Verbal Commitments (Alphabetical)

**All commits are subject to change until student signs officially**

Chris Aldrich (PA) - University of Virginia

Emilie Amaro (FL) - Stanford University

Alexandra Banfich (IN) - Princeton University

Andrew Brodeur (NJ) - Duke University

Mary Kate Champagne (NY) - Providence College

Maverick Darling (MI) - University of Wisconsin

Chris Derrick (IL) - Stanford University

Rob Finnerty (MN) - University of Wisconsin

Mike Fout (IN) - Florida State University

Hilary Esslestein (OH) - University of Findlay

Griff Graves (VA) - Syracuse University

Georgia Griffin (NH) - Stanford University

Kevin Havel (IL) - Stanford University

Caylin Howell (TX) - Xavier University

Ben Johnson (NM) - Stanford University

Max Kaulbach (PA) - Princeton University

Sean Keveren (TN) - University of Virginia

Caitlin Lane (NY) - Penn State University - Article

Cory Leslie (OH) - Florida State University

Brian Leung (NJ) - Princeton University

Vince McNally (PA) - Penn State University

Chanelle Price (PA) - University of Tennessee

Luke Puskedra (UT) - University of Oregon

Kristin Reese (NY) - Stanford University - Article

Zach Rivers (NY) - Syracuse University

Johns Ross (VA) - Duke University

Neely Spence (PA) - Shippensburg University

Miles Unterreiner (WA) - Stanford University

Charlies White (CO) - University of Texas

Kevin Williams (CO) - University of Oklahoma

Jason Witt (VA) - Brigham Young University