[media-credit name=”Paul Pilkington” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]

Coaches and members of the Weber State University women’s cross-country team celebrate their Big Sky championship. WSU won the conference title over the weekend. The men’s team finished second, behind Northern Arizona University.

The Weber State University women’s cross-country team proved it was worthy of a top preseason ranking when it claimed the Big Sky Conference Championship in Pocatello, Idaho.

On Saturday, both the men’s and women’s teams competed in the Big Sky Championship hosted by Idaho State University. Competing in rigid temperatures, the women’s team displayed an amazing performance, landing them a first-place overall finish. The men’s team would take second place in the competition.

The WSU Wildcats were led by Amber Henry, who took the individual championship. Henry posted a time of 17:30.50 on the 5K course, which broke the previous course record. Henry is the first Wildcat to win the individual title since former All-American Sariah Long in 2007.

Henry would finish by a large margin over second-place finisher Bradi Hutchison of ISU, who ran a 17:43.52. Northern Arizona University’s Kortnee Burton ran a 17:46.95 to take the third-place finish, followed by Montana State University’s Heather Haug with a time of 17:52:02 for the fourth-place spot.

Henry said that, despite the tough conditions, she performed well, and was happy to see all of the hard work the team has put in pay off.

“I felt that I ran a really solid race despite the tough weather conditions,” Henry said. “We have been looking forward all year to this meet, and I feel like we did a tremendous job as a team.”

Rounding out the top six were WSU’s junior Sarah Callister, posting a time of 17:56.92 to finish in fifth place, followed by Laken Hintze, who was sixth at 18:10.98. Both earned All-Conference honors.

Each of the top six competitors individually broke the previous course record of 18:16:1, which was previously held by NAU’s Ida Nilsson.

“I felt like our team did really well, and our coach did a great job of preparing us for it,” Henry said. “I am so proud of each and every one of those girls.”

Taylor Thornley was 13th for the Wildcats with an 18:32.88, and Kayla Blackfoot finished 15th with a time of 18:40.27, holding the last-scoring positions for the Wildcats.

“Coach prepared us the entire season for this race, so we really knew what to expect,” Blackfoot said. “We were all confident and really excited about the competition.”

Together, the Wildcats’ efforts would land them a team first-place finish, scoring 40 points in the competition. ISU would hold the second-place spot with a score of 50 points. Rounding out the top three finishers was NAU with a score of 82.

On the men’s side of the competition, the Wildcats took home a second-place finish behind NAU, which brought home its fifth-straight title.

All-American steeplechaser Brett Hales led the Wildcats with a third-place overall finish, earning him All-Conference honors. Hales posted a time of 24:44.60 on the 8K course.

Mike Hardy was WSU’s next runner at 25:00.20, with Jason Nance coming in eighth at 25:04.94, both earning All-Conference honors.

John Coyle was next at 25:35.69, finishing 12th overall, followed by Alex Sorenson, who was 13th with a time of 25:45.51.

NAU’s Diego Estrada took the individual title, posting a meet record time of 24:15.43.

The NAU Lumberjacks posted a combined score of 26 points, good enough for the team win. The Wildcats came in second place with a score of 42, and MSU in third at 86 points.

The Wildcats will move on to the NCAA Mountain Region Championships held in Provo on Nov. 12.

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