Bentonville & Four Other Boys Team to Watch in 2024

You can't mention the 2023 cross country season without mentioning the Bentonville Boys.

After entering the season ranked 24th on the Milesplit50 Preseason Team Rankings, the Tigers still managed to exceed everybody's expectations by winning their 7th straight 6A championship in dominating fashion - their 11th in the last 15 years, and then finishing second at NXR South to qualify for Nike Cross Nationals.

Bentonville became the first team not from the state of Texas to ever qualify to NXN from the South Region and would go on to finish 13th in Portland.

So the question is: what's next?

The Tigers graduated three from their top 5 a year ago, including James American Horse who finished 14th at NXR South and was the team's first finisher.

Payton Brack and Eli Seavey also departed and were incredibly important to this team. Seavey, an Arkansas commit, won the 6A 800m championship this spring.

Fortunately for Bentonville, Matthew Shelly and Owen Kelley, who finished 1st and 2nd at the state cross country meet last fall, both return for their senior season.

Shelly is coming off an incredible junior year where he won five state championships, including two in each indoor and outdoor track while Kelley finished 8th at the RunningLane Track Championships in the 3,200m.

Ryan Fernstrom is also back for the Tigers. The rising senior finished 9th at the state cross meet last year. He also finished 6th this spring in the 300m hurdles at the 6A state championships.

Carter Beasley and Phoenix Smith were the Tigers next two finishers at state last fall and each of them are capable of sliding into the 4th and 5th spots of this lineup. Harper Jones is also back for one final season and he ran a 16:02.60 last fall.

Logan Hurley, Miles Rush, and Jeremiah Trimble all ran under 17 minutes last season and after making big improvements this track season, they are three more names the Tigers could rely on this season.

Tishan Abeyagunawardene is the state's biggest X-Factor.

Though he didn't compete for Bentonville last fall, he lined up for the Tigers during the outdoor season. One of the team's many rising seniors, Abeyagunawardene finished 3rd at the 6A state meet in the 3,200m and even ran a 15:58.43 at the Missouri Southern Stampede last fall.

With so many departures, Abeyagunawardene's presence would only help keep the NXN qualifiers in the national conversation.

So it would look like Bentonville, despite three major departures, is still the team to beat in the Natural State and will be searching for an 8th straight championship.

Looking past the Tigers, the Natural State is as talented as ever, and there are so many great teams in the state. So today, we're going to take a look at a few other teams primed for success in 2024.