Sep 4, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's and women's cross country teams begin their second season under head coach Bryan Berryhill at the Colorado State Invitational on Friday. The Cowgirls will run a 5-kilometer race at 6 p.m. from Hughes Stadium, while the Cowboys will run the same course and distance at 6:30 p.m.
After reporting on Aug. 19, Wyoming has been practicing the last three weeks, including a team trip to Steamboat Springs, Colo. Both squads were picked to finish sixth at the 2013 Mountain West Championships in the preseason coaches poll, which was released on Aug. 22. The USTFCCCA mountain region poll placed the Cowboys eight and Cowgirls 15th last week.
"We always use our opening meet as a barometer of where we are at, so that's our plan this Friday," Berryhill said. "This meet will help us figure out what we need to do to prepare for conference and regions. Plus the competition level should be pretty high, as Colorado State and Air Force are both ranked in the top three in our conference."
Cowboy Season Preview
Depth will be a strong point of the 2013 Wyoming men's cross country team and could help the Cowboys take the next step as a program with a top-three finish at the Mountain West Championship. The Pokes return their top four runners from a squad that finished fifth in the conference last season and welcome six newcomers to this year's 11-man squad.
"Returning our top four from last season is a big positive," Berryhill said. "Last year we didn't have a lot of experience with a lot of young kids, so now we have more of a mature team with more experience."
Those four returners finished as Wyoming's top four in all six meets last season. Senior Garrett Zans and sophomore Aaron Derner combined to finish as the first and second Cowboy, while senior Mike Banks and sophomore Mike Seas were third and fourth. Derner paced the Pokes at the first three meets, while Zans did in the last three.
They will be supplemented by the addition of redshirt sophomore Dylan Morin and sophomore Amos Bowen. Morin spent the past two seasons running for Washington in the Pac-12, while Bowen is a junior-college product that joined Wyoming in January. Berryhill expects Morin to be a top-three runner for the Pokes and Bowen to be in the top five.
"The good thing we have this season, that we didn't last season, is that our four through seven runners should be better and those make your team," Berryhill said. "We were a little inconsistent there last year so to have those runners that can step up consistently is going to make a big difference for us. Our three through five runners are really going to shine for us on the men's side this year."
Berryhill said that depth has given Wyoming expectations of a top-three finish at the MW Championship at Air Force in November. New Mexico is the clear favorite and a top-five team in the nation, according to him, but with what UW has returning and the meet at 7,000 feet, the Pokes have an opportunity to make another step in the right direction.
Cowgirl Season Preview
Much like the men, the 2013 Wyoming women's cross country team has added depth. The Cowgirls return seven letterwinners, including four of their top seven from last year's MW Championship, and add 10 newcomers. Junior Holly Page will pace the team, but the rest of UW's top seven will be much harder to predict, according to Berryhill.
"On the women's side it's going to be a lot of new faces," he said. "The attitude is going to be a lot different. There is going to be more of a team mentality. I definitely think they are going to be a much improved team, even with a lot of newcomers, just because they are going to be willing to fight for each other."
Page was UW's top finisher at all six meets last season and earned First-Team All-MW honors with a fourth-place finish at the conference meet. She was in contention for the title until 200 meters to go, as her time of 21:02 over the 6-kilometer course was the second fastest by a UW runner since 1990. Sophomore Audra DeStefano returns after a disappointing finish to last season. She was in UW's top three until an illness kept her out of the last two races. Devon England helped fill the void left by DeStefano and returns for her junior campaign this fall. Senior Emily Swigart and junior Jessica Lemaster also return after spending time in Wyoming's top seven last season.
The Cowgirls are going to rely on some of those newcomers this season, though, according to Berryhill. Freshman Ali Walker of Park City, Utah, could be in UW's top two or three, he said, while fellow freshman Megan Brunette of Colorado Springs, Colo., is another to keep an eye on. Wyoming fans will also keep tabs on Laramie-native Cassidy Meade who enters her freshman season this fall after a stand-out career for the Lady Plainsmen.
"Holly is going to be 10 times more confident than she was last year and could challenge for a MW title," Berryhill said. "Walker is a talented freshman that will help push Holly in practice and then we get England and DeStefano back healthy. After that, we need some youngsters to step into those five through seven roles. If we are going to be any good, we need some of those new faces to help push the team to improve and work their way into the top five. There are a handful of young ladies that are every bit talented enough to accomplish that."
Berryhill said the women's squad will be younger than the men's, but expectations at the conference meet will be the same.
"A top-three finish will be more difficult on the women's side with the 3-4-5 teams being so competitive, but we'll be right there fighting for one of those spots," he said. "I want us to be top three."
Last Time Out: Teams Conclude Season at NCAA Regional
Seeking a strong finish to the 2012 campaign, the Wyoming cross country teams competed well at the NCAA Mountain Regional on Nov. 9 at Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins, Colo.
The Cowboys finished the 10k race in 13th place overall with 283 points, while the Cowgirls placed 14th in their 6k race with 364 points.
Garrett Zans and Aaron Derner were the first Cowboys to finish with respective 29th- and 49th-place finishes, while senior Michael Banks came in 59th in 31:53.9. Freshmen Mike Seas and Alex Pawlak also scored points for the team with their respective 63rd- and 83rd-place marks. Senior Tyler Gifford (33:26.8) and junior Ken Lane (33:42.4) also competed.
Sophomore Holly Page continued to lead the Cowgirls as she placed 28th overall in 21:21.2. Devon England came in 57th in 22:02.7 with Christine Nelson placing 88th in 22:53.4. Seniors Abi Bever and Brooke Hughes scored the remaining team points with their respective 89th- and 102nd-place finishes. Emily Swigart (23:25.0) and Jessica Lemaster (24:06.7) also ran.
From All Corners
The 2013 Cowboy team features runners from all corners of the globe. Four Cowboys are foreign as two hail from the United Kingdom, one from New Zealand and one from Kenya, to go with domestic Cowboys from Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. Four Cowboys on the 11-man squad are from Wyoming.
In stark contrast to the men's team, the 2013 Cowgirls features several runners competing for their home state. Out of 17 student-athletes, 10 hail from Wyoming, while three are from neighboring states Colorado and Utah. Four runners on the 2013 roster are from Laramie.
Wyoming continues the 2013 season at the Utah Valley Invite on Sept. 13 in Orem, Utah.