Oct. 27, 2011
The regular season is over, and the Wyoming cross country program now takes aim at the postseason.
The 2011 Mountain West Conference Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships will be on Saturday at the Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins, Colo. The men's 8-kilometer race begins at 10 a.m. MT, while the women's 6-kilometer race starts at 11 a.m. MT.
Both teams have dealt with injuries this season, but the Cowboys and Cowgirls have recovered in time to have their regular lineup available.
The Cowboys will vie for a team title, bolstered by three top-two finishes this year. They will have senior Greg Miller back, who has been slowed by foot injuries recently. He'll join sophomore Garrett Zans, senior Nick Ekel and junior Mike Banks in challenging powerful programs like New Mexico and Air Force for the conference crown. Miller and Ekel were Second Team All-Conference last season, and Zans was the Freshman of the Year.
"I think if all our guys are clicking like they're capable of, we'll be right in the mix for the team title," Wyoming coach Randy Cole said. "They could win the thing or be fourth. It's going to be that much of a barnburner.
"It'll be an opportunity for us. That's always fun, going in knowing, `Hey, we've got a chance to do something special' as opposed to `We're going to get our doors blown off.' The key is setting ourselves up. The men have a shot at doing some really good things."
On the men's side, defending conference champion New Mexico will seek its third-straight league title. New Mexico senior Ross Millington is expected to pace the Lobos in the event. Millington enters the race with the MW's top 8K mark this season with a time of 24:08.0, while Air Force senior Jim Walmsley owns the league's second-best time in 2011 (24:15.3). Miller and Zans have the fifth- and ninth-best marks in the 8K this year, respectively.
The women's team, which has three top-four finishes this season, will lean on juniors Brooke Hughes and Abi Bever and freshman Holly Page, all of whom have had solid races recently. Bever and Page will run in their first MW Championship event, and Hughes will aim to improve upon her 37th-place finish last season. The key will be the emergence of the No. 4 and 5 runners for the Cowgirls.
"The women, realistically, could get in the top four," Cole said. "That'd be a very nice finish for this team. We've got some women like Brooke, who has been running very solid all year. She's having her best season in Cowgirl cross country. Holly Page has been stepping up in training, and Abi Bever has been very steady.
"Then we have a whole cluster of girls who need to rise up. This is a great opportunity for them to take this step forward and compete. That'll open up good scoring for us in the meet, and even in the regional meet."
The 20th-ranked New Mexico women hope to take home their fourth consecutive MW title. Individually, the Lobos return seniors Natalie Gray and Sarah Waldron, who finished first and second, respectively, at last year's MW Championship, as well as senior Ruth Senior, who earned a third-place finish at the event.
The Mtn. - MountainWest Sports Network - will air a 30-minute review show dedicated to the 2011 Mountain West Cross Country Championships on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. MT. Interviews with coaches and student-athletes from programs across the league will be incorporated into the show along with results and highlights from both races.
Complete results will be available on www.wyomingathletics.com.