LARAMIE, Wyo. - Wyoming cross country will compete in its first meet of the season on Friday, heading across the Wyoming-Colorado border to Fort Collins, Colo., for the CSU Invite. The women's 5-kilometer race gets started at 6 p.m. MT, while the men's 5-kilometer race is slated for 6:30 p.m. at the Hughes Stadium Cross Country Course.
Cowboy Season Preview
Seniors Aaron Derner and Amos Bowen paced the Wyoming men’s cross country team to fourth place, its best-ever finish, at the 2015 Mountain West championships and subsequently garnered All-Region honors to cap their collegiate careers. Four returning letterwinners, including three sophomores, will attempt to fill the shoes of the Cowboys’ departing stars in 2016.
Ricky Faure and Jonah Henry each finished in the conference’s top 28 last season and continued their emergence as young stars by each posting top-36 finishes at the NCAA Mountain Regional in November. “[Ricky and Jonah] had very strong cross country seasons [in 2015]. Hopefully they can build upon that this year,” head coach Bryan Berryhill said.
The pair will provide a significant amount of leadership for a young Cowboy squad that seeks to move into the Mountain West’s top three teams in 2016. Fellow letterwinners Jesse Gray and Michael Downey hope to be top-seven harriers for the Brown and Gold, while three-time letterwinner Mike Seas returns for his senior season after being sidelined by an illness in 2015. Redshirt freshman Phillip Thomas also hopes to climb into Wyoming’s top seven as he steps onto the collegiate cross country course for the first time this fall.
An intriguing group of newcomers will bolster the squad. “We have a lot of talent coming in,” said Berryhill of Wyoming’s new recruits. Henry’s younger brother, two-time Wyoming state cross country champion Christopher Henry, joins the Cowboys this fall and will look to break into the team’s top seven as a true freshman. Other newcomers include two New Zealand natives, 1,500-meter junior national champion Daniel Hintz and 3,000-meter steeplechase junior national runner-up Harry Ewing.
Cowgirl Season Preview
Depth will be a certain strength for the 2016 Cowgirl cross country squad, which returns its top five finishers from the 2015 Mountain West championships. Leading the way will be senior Audra DeStefano, who was the team’s top finisher in the first two meets of 2015 before missing the remainder of the season due to illness. She enters her final cross country season on the heels of a conference title in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2016 MW outdoor track & field championships. Junior Kerry White was the Cowgirls’ top cross country finisher at both the conference and regional championships in 2015, and will look to cement her status as an all-conference performer after missing the accolade by just two positions last season. Senior Megan Brunette and junior Lauren Hamilton join White and DeStefano as veteran leaders after regularly placing in the team’s top three throughout last season.
“I’m excited about the depth that we have returning for the year,” Berryhill said, noting DeStefano and White as the Cowgirls’ 1-2 runners. “I feel really good about our 1-2, and we have a lot of depth behind that.”
Sophomores Isabella Pape and Kiah Leonard show promise as rising stars after each finishing in Wyoming’s top five at both the conference and regional championships in 2015. Three-time letterwinner and senior Cassidy Meade will provide important veteran leadership, while sophomore Regan VanDePol rounds out Wyoming’s returning letterwinners. Additionally, Calbi Ausmann and Kacey Doner join the squad as true freshmen competing to make an immediate impact as Cowgirl harriers. Doner is a native of Fort Collins, Colo., while Ausmann hails from Newcastle, Wyo., and is a five-time Wyoming state champion on the track. Other newcomers include true freshmen Kirsten Kropkowski and Taylor Van Holland. Kropkowski, a graduate of The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., was a high school teammate of Hamilton’s.