Cross Country

Cross Country Opens Season with Veteran Leadership

Megan Brunette

Megan Brunette
Aug. 28, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

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The University of Wyoming men's and women's cross country teams will conclude a week-long training camp in Utah by opening their competitive season at the Aggie Invite on Saturday in Logan. The Cowgirls will run a 5-kilometer race at 9 a.m. MT from Innovation Campus Wellness Park, while the Cowboys will race over 4 miles at 9:40 a.m.

After reporting last Friday, Wyoming hit the road to Bear Lake, Utah, where the squads have spent the last week training. Both teams have veterans to build around this season, as the Cowgirls welcome back six of their top seven from a year ago and the Cowboys return five. The UW women were picked fourth in the Mountain West preseason coaches' poll, which was released last Thursday, while the UW men were fifth.

"What we've seen so far out here is that both teams trained really hard over the summer," Berryhill said. "They have put themselves in a good position and now we get a chance to race and see where we are at as a group. As a coach what I'm really curious about is where our 4-5 runners are and who they will be. The men and the women both have solid top threes with upperclassmen that will race well. The key to our season will be who and how good are 4-5 runners will be."

Cowboy Season Preview
Wyoming will be without the services of last season's top Cowboy this fall, as Garrett Zans completed his eligibility, but the Pokes welcome back a group of key veterans in 2014 that will help bridge that gap. Wyoming will be paced by the junior trio of Aaron Derner, Amos Bowen and Dylan Morin. Derner and Bowen finished in UW's top four in all six meets last season, while Morin was in the top seven in each meet.

"The strength of the men's side this season will really be those top three," Berryhill said. "We don't have any one guy who will replace Garrett, but those three as a whole can. Those three can run higher in the field as a group with a closer gap than last year."

The Cowboys return a total of seven letterwinners from last season, including five of their top seven competitors. Junior Mike Seas was consistently in UW's top seven last fall, as was sophomore Michael Kesy, who was named the MW's Freshman of the Year. Several newcomers could work their way into Wyoming's top seven this fall as well. Redshirt sophomore Alex Pawlak is back after taking last season off, while Laramie native Jonah Henry looks poised to make an immediate impact.

"To continue our success from last season we need to continue to grow in our confidence," Berryhill said. "Seeing Garrett qualify for the NCAA Championships last fall helped them realize they can do it. We also need to continue to increase our depth at our four and five positions. Who steps up there will determine if we are a better team than last season."

Wyoming's aim this fall will once again be a top-three finish at the conference meet, according to Berryhill.

"It's a very realistic goal," Berryhill said. "The Mountain West was one of the best conferences in the nation last year. It won't be quite as strong this year, though, and our team will be stronger, so we feel we can shoot for that top-three spot."

Cowgirl Season Preview
Even more than the men, the Cowgirls will rely on a core group of returning veterans this fall. Wyoming returns six of its top seven runners from last season, including its top three finishers from the NCAA Mountain Regional meet. Senior Holly Page will spearhead UW's attack once again this fall, as she has led UW in every race the past two seasons. Junior Audra DeStefano looks to continue momentum from a superb track season and sophomore Ali Walker is back after missing most of last season with an illness.

"I feel very good about the depth on our women's side," Berryhill said. "What sets this team apart is that this could be the best top three I've ever had for the women. They are all very talented, but their strength is their consistency."

Sophomores Megan Brunette and Cassidy Meade return after both were solid top-seven finishers last season, while Devon England is one of just two seniors on the Cowgirls' 26-person roster this fall.

"Returning all that experience is exciting," Berryhill said. "The last couple years we didn't have a lot of veterans coming back, but this year we return the vast majority of our squad. That experience will go a long way toward helping them at these larger meets."

The Cowgirls will seek a top-three finish at the conference meet as well, which is attainable according to Berryhill. He said the Cowgirls will need to will need to improve their gap from the first to fifth runner, though.

"Our scoring split has to be better than last year," Berryhill said. "It was regularly over a minute and we need to get that down to 40 seconds or better. Any time you can get your fifth runner within 40 seconds of a runner like Holly, it will help them run as a pack."

Cowgirls Fourth, Cowboys Fifth In Preseason Cross Country Poll
The Wyoming cross country programs were picked to finish in the top five of their respective fields in the Mountain West Cross Country Preseason Coaches' Poll, released last Thursday by the league. Under the direction of third-year head coach Bryan Berryhill, the Cowgirls were slated fourth among 11 squads, while the Cowboys were picked to finish fifth out of eight programs. In a vote of the league's head coaches, the UW women tallied 63 points in the poll, while the men garnered 23.

The New Mexico men's and women's cross country teams were selected to win the 2014 Mountain West titles, respectively. The Lobo women have won six-consecutive MW Cross Country Championships, while the men have won five straight. The 2014 Mountain West Championships will be hosted by Fresno State at Woodward Park in Fresno, Calif., on Oct. 31.

First USTFCCCA Regional Poll Released
The first USTFCCCA regional poll was released on Monday and Wyoming ranks in the top 15 of the mountain region on both the men's and women's side. The Cowboys are eighth overall in the mountain region and the fourth Mountain West school, while the Cowgirls are ninth overall and the third Mountain West school. Both polls can be seen on page three.

Last Time Out: Wyoming's Zans Places 65th at NCAA Championships
The University of Wyoming's Garrett Zans battled cold and windy conditions to finish 65th at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind. The senior completed the 10-kilometer course in 31:01 to place just 25 spots and 16 seconds shy of All-America honors in the 256-runner field.

"When you go as an individual the goal is always to All-American, but at the same time you are competing against 250 of the best runners in the nation," Berryhill said. "Garrett beat roughly 190 of those runners, so he ran well. I'm really proud of him for representing this university well. He was up there and in contention for All-America honors with a half mile to go, but he just didn't have the finish."

Competing in his final cross country race for the Cowboys, the Rock Springs native competed on a wet, muddy course with temperatures in the low 20s and wind that pushed the temperature into the single digits. Zans started slow and was in 93rd through the first 3 kilometers at 8:42, but moved up to 62nd at the 5k mark in 15:11. He moved up to 53rd with a 24:35 through 8 kilometers, but slipped 12 spots over the final 2 kilometers.

"The original starting line was so muddy that they moved it up 110 meters to a smaller area, so Garrett was forced to start slow due to his box assignment," Berryhill said. "He moved up well throughout the race in brutal conditions, though. That was a race where you had to be mentally tough with the weather and the course conditions, and Garrett showed that. If you look at his last three cross country races, he's been rock solid."

Zans was the first Wyoming runner to compete at the NCAA Championships since Mark Korir in 2008, while his 65th-place finish was the highest since Korir placed 19th in 2007. Zans was the first Wyoming native to compete for the Cowboys at the NCAA Championships since Buffalo-native Joe Hall in 2000.

Holly Out Front
Senior Holly Page will seek to continue a dominant run this fall. She has paced the Cowgirls in the last 12 cross country races, including all of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, and has won two meets along the way. UW's second finisher has come within 30 seconds of Page just five times, including the closest of 10 seconds by Megan Brunette at the Roy Griak Invite on Sept. 28. Page finished as UW's second runner in her first three career races as a freshman in 2011.

Next Up
Wyoming continues its season at the Montana State Invite on Sept. 20 in Bozeman, Mont.

 

 

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