Last Saturday, the Big Sky Conference champion Weber State University women’s cross country team finished third at the NCAA Mountain Region Meet in Provo, Utah, and has qualified for the NCAA national meet.
Two weeks after the women’s team was named Big Sky Conference champions, the WSU men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Provo to compete against rival Brigham Young University. WSU competed against many other teams, including the two Mountain West powerhouses, Colorado State University and the University of New Mexico .
The WSU women’s team finished in third place with 135 points, behind CSU and UNM, which tied for first place with 84 points. The hometown Cougars finished in fourth place with 140 points. This meet also marked a first for the WSU women’s team, as they finished ahead of BYU’s team for the first time in school history. Head Coach Paul Pilkington said this was one of the best performances his team has ever produced.
“That is the highest finish ever for our women at the region meet,” Pilkington said, “and it’s the first time we have ever finished ahead of BYU in a women’s cross country meet period and to do it on their home course makes it even more special.”
Sophomore Amber Henry led the way for the Wildcats, finishing the 6,000 meter course in 21:04, which was good enough for her to finish in sixth place overall. Junior Sarah Callister finished in 22nd place with a time of 21:46.7, while junior Laken Hintze finished 26th with a time of 21:51.5. The women’s team had all five of its runners finish the course inside the top 45. Pilkington said the team members all worked hard and deserved to qualify for the national meet.
“Amber (Henry) has a tremendous amount of grit and competitive spirit,” Pilkington said. “The rest of the team took their cue from her and stayed up in the pack and ran a great race. One through seven, this may be the best women’s cross country race ever. I am really proud of the way they responded.”
After the race, Henry said the two big accomplishments from the meet were that WSU beat BYU and that the team made it to the national championship. She said it was a big win for the team and that the entire team performed well.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Henry said. “We have worked so hard, and for us to be able to go and compete in nationals is such a huge accomplishment. It will be fun to know that we can run with the big dogs.”
The WSU men’s team also had a good day at Provo, finishing in sixth place with 190 points, one point ahead of the Utah State University Aggies. BYU took first place in the men’s 10,000-meter course with 49 points. Senior Brett Hales finished first among the Wildcats with a time of 31:21 to put him in 29th place. Sophomore Mike Hardy finished 31st with a time of 31:22, and junior Jason Nance finished 33rd with a time of 31:26.1. The men’s team just fell short of reaching the NCAA championships, missing out by a mere 12 points.
Next week, the WSU women’s cross country team will be traveling to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete in the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 21. This year will mark the fourth time that WSU has made it to the championships and the first time in five years that it has gone to the championships. When talking about the upcoming championship meet, Pilkington said, “To be able to compete with the bigger schools on a national level is nice.” Pilkington also said the big thing for the team was to focus on how many of the 31 teams it can beat and hopefully have Henry and Callister finish high in the rankings so they have a chance at making the All-American Team.