BOZEMAN, Mont. - The University of Wyoming cross country team provided a look into its vast potential at Saturday’s MSU-Bozeman Running Company Invitational, placing third in both the men’s and women’s team standings as juniors Jonah Henry and Lauren Hamilton each finished in the top five of their respective races. Henry placed third in the men’s 5-mile race to lead the Cowboys, clocking 24 minutes, 36.07 seconds, while Hamilton led the Cowgirls with a time of 16:52.58 to take fourth in the women’s 3-mile race.
“It was by far the best race since I’ve been at the University of Wyoming,” head coach Bryan Berryhill said of the Cowgirls’ performance after five Cowgirls placed in the top 20 and seven finished in the top 30. “The two teams ahead of us were both at the NCAA Championships last year. We were right there with them the whole time. It’s good for the girls to see that we can race with some of the best teams in the country. They came out today and showed they’re a team that has a shot to get to nationals.”
Hamilton passed four Utah runners in the last 100 meters to finish fourth overall. Her time was over 15 seconds faster than the 17:08 time posted by UW legend Holly Page in Bozeman on Sept. 20, 2014, the last time UW traveled to Montana State for a cross country meet. In fact, the Cowgirls’ average time from Saturday’s race was mere seconds slower than Page’s 2014 time. Page finished 71st at the NCAA Championships later that season.
“It’s an amazing feeling because I know that we have a long way to go and this is only the beginning,” Hamilton said following the race. “We all stuck together through mile two. We pushed together and finished together. This is big for the whole team because it shows where we’re starting. We’re not peaking right now.”
Redshirt senior Audra DeStefano came back strong in her first cross country race since Sept. 26, 2015, taking 11th with a time of 17:11. True freshman Kacey Doner showed her successful debut at the CSU Invite was not a fluke, finishing directly behind DeStefano with a time of 17:12.
“What was really neat about [Kacey], in the biggest college race she’s run in yet, she was pushing our pack from the one and a half mile mark to the two and half mile mark,” Berryhill said. “She was the spark we needed in the middle of the race.”
Senior Megan Brunette placed 17th, clocking 17:18, while junior Kerry White was the fifth Cowgirl to finish in the top 20 after taking 20th with a time of 17:24. All in all, the Cowgirls posted a miniscule pack split of 26 seconds. Two additional Cowgirls finished in the top 30 of the 153-member field, as sophomore Isabella Pape took 24th while junior Quinn DeStefano placed 29th. Ashley Bock (32nd), Kiah Leonard (35th), and Solana Quistorff (46th) all made the top 50.
Wyoming’s success was not limited to the Cowgirls, however. While Jonah Henry was the top Division I finisher in the men’s field after taking third overall, three other Cowboys finished in the top 16. Senior Mike Seas showed consistency by finishing as the Cowboys’ No. 2 runner for the second consecutive race, placing 12th overall with a time of 24:57. Ricky Faure and Harry Ewing followed closely behind, taking 14th and 16th overall, respectively, with times of 24:59 and 25:11.
“We were really good through four runners,” Berryhill said of the men’s squad. We were as good as any team through four. We’ll work the next few weeks to find a fifth runner.”
Berryhill spoke highly of Ewing, who was fighting through a sickness on Saturday. “I was really proud of him. He is under the weather right now, and to see him fight through that and not use it as an excuse showed me a lot about him today.”
He also thought Henry and Seas showed a competitive edge in Bozeman. “[Jonah] put himself at the front,” Berryhill said. “He’s a phenomenal competitor. Mike has shown consistency in practice. In years before this, that was something he needed to work on. He’s put a lot of focus into becoming a more consistent runner.”
Henry knows there’s more to accomplish before next Saturday’s prestigious Roy Griak Invitational. “We’re going to need to focus a lot on recovery this week in order to hit it again and be stronger we were today,” he said following Saturday’s race. “If we keep each other accountable, we’ll be able to do it.”
Freshman Daniel Hintz rebounded from a tough outing at the CSU Invite, finishing as the Cowboys’ No. 5 runner with a time of 26:08 to take 52nd overall. Jesse Gray finished directly behind Hintz, taking 53rd at 26:13. Freshman Christopher Henry placed 57th, clocking in at 26:16.
Only Utah State and Weber State finished ahead of the Cowboys in the team standings on Saturday, while Utah and Weber State came in ahead of the Cowgirls. Next on the schedule for Wyoming is a trip to St. Paul, Minn., for the 31st annual Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24. UW harriers will compete against some of the nation’s best teams at the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course.