Aug. 27, 2007
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Fifth year head cross country coach Randy Cole is excited about the upcoming 2007 season as the Wyoming teams look to improve on a fourth place finish for the women and a fifth place finish for the men at the Mountain West Conference Championships a year ago.
On the women's side, the Cowgirls return four out of the top five finishers from a year ago, including seniors Gretchen Johnson and Nikki Peterson. Johnson (Basin, Wyo.) finished up last season by earning All-MWC and All-Mountain Region honors. She ran a top time of 21:31.1 at the NCAA Mountain Regionals to place 22nd at the meet. In her first season with the program, Peterson (Riverton, Wyo.) competed in three events and ran a top time of 23.48 at the Chile Pepper Invite. Both should provide some valuable leadership.
"Besides earning All-MWC and All-Mountain Region honors in cross country and setting school records in track, Gretchen improved her ability to race," said Cole. "She is more determined than ever to take a realistic shot at qualifying for Nationals this fall. Nikki comes back with a year of racing experience and could be a big factor for us."
Also mixed in to the group are returning sophomores Brenna Dooley, Erin Heffron and Emily Higgins. One of the top point leaders for the Cowgirls in her first season, Higgins looks to continue that impact and improve in all areas. She finished last season by participating in all six competitions, while finishing fourth out of 241 runners at the Woody Greeno Invite. Dooley, from Worland, Wyo., ran in five races during her freshman season. She placed tenth at the Woody Greeno Invite with a time of 23:15. Heffron competed in five races as well and continues to improve.
"Brenna Dooley and Emily Higgins return with a bit of accumulated racing experience," said Cole. "They each have had some success and could be in the top 15 or so at the MWC. Erin Heffron has learned what is needed also and has a much better summer under her belt."
Wyoming welcomes seven newcomers to the team which should provide a good mix with the other returners.
Emily Byra (Laramie, Wyo.) placed fourth in the 3,200 meters and sixth in the 1,600 meters at the Wyoming state indoor meet, while finishing fifth in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meter at the outdoor meet. She was also selected the Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year by the Laramie Quarterback Club. Ashlyn Davis comes from Cambridge City, Ind., where she was a four-time All-Conference selection in cross country, along with earning Most Valuable Player honors during that same time. McKynzie Maher was a three-time all-conference and two-time all-region selection in cross country at Rocky Mountain High School in Ft. Collins, Colo. Ashlyn Rhule, from Loveland, Colo., was a four-time All-Conference selection, along with earning All-Area honors three times and All-State honors twice in cross country. Grace Shearrer (Denver, Colo.) placed fifth out of 174 runners at the Colorado State Cross Country Meet and finished sixth out of 27 competitors at the State Track and Field Meet in the 3200 meters this past year. Amber Wilson (Green River, Wyo.) was a four-time letterwinner in track and three-times in cross country while placing seventh at the regional meet in the two-mile race in 2006. Sara Ysebaert (Laramie, Wyo.) was a member of the team last season as well, but did not compete.
"Gracie Shearrer was one of the top cross country runners in Colorado's 4A class while also playing soccer. She hasn't really trained just for cross or track. Ashlyn Davis is a tough competitor from Indiana who has some good running tools. Emily Byra will surprise a lot of folks as she improved from this past spring at Laramie High School, as she has only been running competitively for only a year and a half. McKynzie Maher and Ashlyn Rhule have shown some good things in their high school careers and have placed at their state meet competitions. I really like the preparation and effort of Sara Ysebaert and Amber Wilson. They will make big gains this fall with their elevated work load."
"Overall we have a deeper bunch with great attitudes and eagerness to get better," Cole added. "It will take the normal gradual progression and patience but we can be a real solid team when the championship races come around at the end of October and in November."
On the men's side, the Cowboys return their top runner in junior Mark Korir. He along with senior Michael Huntington and juniors Brett Schuler and Shadrack Too will be key factors for the team this season.
"The men's team could be very good this year," said Cole. "We will have a nice blend of experience coming back and a very good class of newcomers. Like any young team, we will have to build up properly and come together by the end of the year. All of the guys are eager to make Wyoming a top level team."
Korir, from Eldoret, Kenya, placed 22nd at the NCAA National Cross Country meet (11/20/07), which made him the first All-American for UW in 11 years. In cross country, he participated in four of six events in 2006, while placing fifth or higher in each of those meets. He placed first out of 153 runners at the Rocky Mountain Shootout (9/30/06) with a time of 24:51 in the 8K. Michael Huntington (Littleton, Colo.) is the only senior for the Cowboys. He competed in four of six events during the cross country season. His top finish was fifth place at the Wyoming Invitational (9/1/06) with a time of 22:24 in the 2.5 mile race. He also ran a career best 32:06.1 at the NCAA Mountain Regionals (11/11/06) to place 39th in the 10K. Too (Kapsabet, Kenya) participated in all six meet during the 2006 cross country season. His highest finish was 18th at the Wyoming Invitational (9/1/06) with a time of 23:17. He placed 23rd overall at the MWC Cross Country Championship in the 8K race with a time of 25:51.7. Brett Schuler, from Wright, Wyo., competed in all six events during the cross country season. His best finish was 22nd at the Wyoming Invitational (9/1/06) with a time of 23:25.
"Mark leads the way and is determined to be better than ever. He is fired up for the team and for the season. Brett has had his best summer of training since he came to college. He is a tough competitor who will step up well with this added background of work. Shadrack has the ability to be an All-Conference selection as long as his commitment is improved. Michael is a very steadying influence who will help out later in the fall as he comes off some Achilles tendon pain."
In all, the Cowboys welcome six newcomers to this year's squad which Coach Cole is very excited about.
Seth Grossman (Kalispell, Mont.) was three-time All-State selection in cross country during his career at Flathead High School. David Armentrout, from Loveland, Colo. was a four-time letterwinner in cross country, while earning three in track and field. He set records in both the 3K and 5K in 2006 and 2007. Taylor Kelting (Gillette, Wyo.) was an All-Conference and All-State selection during his senior year. In 2006, David Suita (Titusville, N.J.) helped his team to a sectional championship and the runner-up spot at the State Group Meet. The team earned Mercer County Championships (2003, 2005, 2006) and he also garnered All-County Freshman of the Year honors during that time. Greg Miller, from Winnipeg, Canada, was a four-time Cross Country Athlete of the Year, while earning the Outdoor Track and Athlete of the Year in 2006. This past year, he was a member of the Canadian Junior National Cross Country Team and the Canadian Junior National NACAC Cross Country Team. He was the National Champion in the 2,000 meter steeple chase at the Chase Legion 17 and under National Track and Field Championships in 2006. Noel Limo (Eldoret, Kenya) will compete in several different events which range from 800-meters to 10,000 meters.
"Seth Grossman and Taylor Kelting did a great job this summer getting ready. Both have been State Champions and are coming to Wyoming because they want to contribute to raising the program up to being a contender. They have demonstrated good speed and the toughness to get in and race. Greg Miller has very good credits as he comes down from Winnipeg where he was one of the top junior steeplechasers for Canada and was a member of the National team who competed at last year's World Cross Country Championships. He already has experience at the longer race distance but is very untapped. Noel Limo is a very solid freshman who was a top runner at the District level back home in Kenya. His performance level is the same as Mark Korir's before he came to Wyoming. He has put in a good summer of mileage at altitude so he should adapt very well to the Laramie plains. David Armentrout and David Siuta are going to give us more depth and great attitudes with their enthusiasm to improve. All of these young guys have the ability over time to perform well at the NCAA Division I level."