LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men’s and women’s cross country teams begin their 2015 season at the Colorado State Invite on Friday. The Cowgirls will run a 5-kilometer race at 6 p.m. MT from Hughes Stadium, while the Cowboys will run the same course and distance at 6:30 p.m.
After reporting on Aug. 21, Wyoming has been practicing the last two weeks, including a team trip to Evanston, Wyo. Both squads have lofty goals this fall, as the Cowboys return all seven of their top runners from a season ago and the Cowgirls welcome back five of last season’s top seven. That experience will hopefully buoy Wyoming this fall, as the team returns to several high-profile meets and hopes to have both male and female representatives at the NCAA Championships for a second-straight season. The Cowboys were picked to finish fifth and the Cowgirls third at the 2015 Mountain West Championships in the preseason coaches poll, which was released on Aug. 19.
“The first meet is always exciting,” Berryhill said. “It gives you a starting point for the season and lets you know where your team is at and what you need to do to get them ready to go during the championship part of our season in November.”
Cowboy Season Preview
The 2015 Cowboys will be very familiar to Wyoming fans, as all seven that ran at last year’s Mountain West Championships and NCAA Mountain Regional are back. Bowen is likely to lead the Cowboys again after qualifying for the national meet last season as an individual, while Dylan Morin and Aaron Derner could form a potent top three for Wyoming. All three are seniors and all three have run top-15 times in Cowboy cross country history. Sophomore Jonah Henry looks to build on a solid freshman campaign that saw him run consistently in Wyoming’s top five, while Faure should round out UW’s scorers. Faure redshirted last cross country season, but excelled during the track season last spring.
“We should be a much-improved team,” Berryhill said. “For the first time since I’ve been here we return our top five and have great experience. Hopefully that will have them more ready to go into some of these bigger environments and perform well.”
Berryhill said the returners’ leadership will help the Cowboys be a better team this fall, specifically from Bowen.
“Amos has grown physically over the last couple years and has gotten stronger mentally each season as well,” he said. “He is a bit more relaxed in those big-time meets and, now that he’s been there, he knows he can get back there. He has the ability to be an All-American. He showed that at last year’s regional.”
The wildcard in Wyoming’s top five may be Faure, who has yet to wear the Brown and Gold during the cross country season.
“I don’t know where Ricky will go this year in cross,” Berryhill said. “I do know he will do well, but if that puts him toward the front of our top five or in the back will be determined when we race. He’s a very tough competitor and doesn’t like to lose.”
Qualifying for the national meet as a team will be the goal with Wyoming’s wealth of returners. The Cowboys face a tough conference again, though, as New Mexico, Colorado State and Air Force all advanced to the NCAA Championships last season.
“You always want to be represented at the NCAA meet and we’ve had that with Garrett Zans and Bowen the last two years,” Berryhill said. “The next step is to get the team there and that’s my expectation as a coach and I think that’s the team’s as well. If a team since I’ve been here could do it, this is it.”
Cowgirl Season Preview
Page, who led the Cowgirls in the last 18 races since 2011, has graduated, but the cupboard is certainly not empty for Wyoming. The Cowgirls return five of their top seven from last year, including eight letterwinners. Sophomore Kerry White looks to be the heir apparent to Page after she earned All-MW Second Team and All-Region accolades in her first season with the squad.
“For Kerry to run as well as she did last year really tells me the ceiling is extremely high for her,” Berryhill said. “She has an amazing blend of speed and strength. I think she is going to make a huge jump and she was already good last year.”
Senior Audra DeStefano, junior Megan Brunette and junior Ali Walker will combine with White to form a paltry top four for the Cowgirls. All four have run all-time marks in Wyoming cross country history.
“Not any one individual is going to replace Holly on this team, but I think we will be better because of the strength of our top five. Our spread from one to five will be improved and as a group our top three could be special this year. That is what it takes.”
Sophomore Lauren Hamilton competed in UW’s top five all of last season and should battle several newcomers for the last scoring spot this fall. Berryhill will need that competition for the Cowgirls to improve on their third-place finish at the conference meet last year.
“I think we will be right there again for the second or third spot,” he said. “My expectation is to finish in the top three again.
Wyoming nearly qualified as a team for last season’s NCAA Championships after a fifth-place finish at the regional meet and Berryhill said the Cowgirls could be close again.
“We had some really good front runners last year, but we fell off a bit when we got to four and five,” he said. “That’s where we will be a much better team this year. As a top five we will be improved so our fifth runner can finish a lot higher at regionals.”
Last Time Out: Wyoming’s Page and Bowen Conclude Season at NCAA Meet
The University of Wyoming’s Holly Page placed 71st in the women’s race and Amos Bowen was 217th in the men’s race at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind. Page ran the 6-kilometer course in 21:01 to finish just 17 seconds and 31 spots shy of All-America honors in the 253-runner field.
“I thought Holly ran a very tough race,” UW head coach Bryan Berryhill said. “Unfortunately, she got sick so she was battling that and also got a large gash down the back of her calf at the start of the race, which might require stitches, so she battled through a lot. For her to be composed during the race and move up throughout was good to see.”
Battling an illness, Page was 115th through the first 2 kilometers in wet and windy conditions, before moving up to 86th at the 4-kilometer mark and passing 15 runners of the final 2 kilometers. Her finish was the fourth-highest ever by a Cowgirl at the NCAA meet.
Bowen was 108th through the first 3 kilometers, but dropped to 189th through 5 kilometers and further from there. The Mountain West was well represented as a group, as the New Mexico men finished 14th and Colorado State was 19th. On the women’s side, New Mexico placed third, the highest finish by a conference member since 2003, while Boise State was 11th.
“Amos made huge jumps this year and did a lot of great things, but the next step for him is being able to compete on the big stage,” Berryhill said. “He still needs to improve on that, but he is a junior so hopefully he will get the chance to come back next year to the NCAA meet. Hopefully he’ll be able to handle the environment at this meet a little better.”
Page and Bowen were the first Cowboy and Cowgirl duo to qualify for the same NCAA Championships since Mark Korir and Gretchen Johnson in 2007. Page was just the sixth Wyoming female ever to qualify and first since Johnson, while Bowen was the 12th Wyoming male and second consecutive after Garrett Zans qualified in 2013.
Returning NCAA Qualifier
The Cowboys return all seven of their top runners from a season ago, but more importantly they welcome back someone with experience at the national meet. Senior Amos Bowen will look to qualify for the national meet for a second-straight season. He is the first Cowboy to return after competing at the NCAA Championships since Mark Korir went three-straight seasons from 2006-08. Bowen will also be looking to take down Korir’s school record in the 8,000 meters of 23:41. Bowen was two seconds shy at last season’s Washington Invite.
Other Than Holly?
For the first time since 2011 a runner other than Holly Page will lead the Cowgirls this fall. Page paced Wyoming in the last 18 races of her, which spans all of head coach Bryan Berryhill’s tenure at UW. She led the Cowgirls all of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons and won three meets along the way. UW’s second finisher came within 30 seconds of Page just nine times, including the closest of 10 seconds by Megan Brunette. Page finished as UW’s second runner in her first three career races as a freshman in 2011.
Wyoming in the USTFCCCA Regional Polls
The Cowgirls and Cowboys are both ranked No. 10 in the first USTFCCCA regional polls of 2015. The Wyoming women finished last season fifth (second Mountain West team) in the Mountain Region, after climbing as high as fourth. The Cowboys were 10th (fifth MW team). Both teams started the season ranked ninth. The polls are on page three of the notes.
Wyoming’s cross country squads have a distinct local feel this season. A total of 11 of the 20 Cowboys hail from the Equality State, including Jonah Henry of Laramie, while 11 of the 24 Cowgirls are natives of the state.
Wyoming is off for a couple weeks, before running at Minnesota’s prestigious Roy Griak Invite on Sept. 26 in Minneapolis, Minn.