At the moment, Neenah appears to be on the outside looking in in terms of being a national contender, and they only have four runners who have cleared the 17 minute barrier this year. But when your season credentials include beating Middleton at the Wisconsin State Championships, you cannot be taken lightly.
Red Wing (MN)
Red Wing only finished 17 points behind Stillwater at the Minnesota State Championships, and 27 behind Wayzata. They also have a very early season win over Mounds View that could certainly hold some weight if Mounds View qualifies. But the fact does remain that they only finished 5th in their own state, and they'll need to see some strong improvements across the board to really compete with some of their in-state rivals
The balance of power in Nebraska bounced between Fremont and Creighton Prep most of the season, but in the end it was Fremont who came out on top as State Champions. The Tigers likely only have a very outside shot at qualifying for NXN, and they have just a 16:17 average season best and a fifth runner that has only run 16:40, but with enough across-the-board improvement, it could happen.
Every year, only two teams are able to qualify for the Minnesota State Championships out of the Section 6AA meet, even though it perennially houses many of Minnesota's highest-ranked teams. This year, it was Hopkins who took the hard-luck third-place finish to fail to advance to State behind Edina and Wayzata, but their 15-point margin behind Edina suggests that national aspirations are not out of the question, especially if top runner Eli Hoeft can join the most elite runners in the field.
Eden Prairie (MN)
Another team out of Section 6AA in Minnesota, Eden Prairie finished just 5 points behind Hopkins at that meet, and actually beat Hopkins at the Lake Conference Championships two weeks earlier. Top runner Jake Derouin missed several meets during the season and hasn't quite hit the same level as early in the season, but a big race from him could result in Eden Prairie closing much of the gap between them and their conference rivals.
St. Thomas Aquinas (KS)
Saint Thomas Aquinas took a solid sixth at last year's Heartland race, and were poised to do even better this year, even beating Olathe North early in the season... and then Reece Jones got hurt. With Jones sidelined, the Saints still performed admirably and won the Kansas Class 5A Championship, but haven't yet quite approached the national contender level that they appeared poised to hit with a duo of Jones and Ethan Marshall up front.