After a strong season last year, expectations are once again high for the Weber State University men’s and women’s cross-country teams.

“We are looking forward to the season and excited to get started,” said Head Coach Paul Pilkington.

The men’s and women’s teams were both picked to have a strong season in the preseason poll. The women’s team was unanimously picked to win the Big Sky and finish first in the Mountain region; this is the first time the women’s team has been picked to win the Mountain region. The men’s team is picked to finish second.

Preseason honors continued to roll in for the women’s team when, earlier this week, it was ranked 19th in the nation in a preseason poll by the United States Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association.

Last season, the women’s team won the Big Sky and saw Amber Henry claim the individual championship for the season. The team also made it to the NCAA Championships by finishing in third place at the regional championships. The Wildcats have many runners who performed well returning to the team, including Henry, Sarah Callister, Laken Hintze and Taylor Thornley.

Pilkington said he is expecting to have a strong competitive team this year and looking forward to seeing the team compete.

“On the women’s side, we will be a better team from last year with everyone returning,” Pilkington said. “We also had a strong recruiting class and have some freshmen that can contribute. It will be very competitive to see who can make our top seven.”

The first meet for WSU is this weekend at Utah State University, but Pilkington said some members of the team will sit the first race out. Callister, who competed in the North American-Central American Games in July, will sit out.

Pilkington said Henry likely will run as long as the condition of the course is good. He said she is still working her way back from injuries that occurred at the NCAA Track and Field National Championships in the spring. Henry has been training with the team and is healthy, but Pilkington said he didn’t want to risk an injury if the conditions are poor.

“We’re not racing everyone on the women’s side,” Pilkington said. “We’re holding a couple of athletes out . . . it won’t be our full squad. But still, we’re good enough and have enough depth that we’ll be a good team on the women’s side.”

Pilkington said he expects four runners to stand out on the men’s side, with John Coyle, Mike Hardy, Jason Nance and Trevor Ricks all returning to WSU after strong seasons last year.

“The men are pretty good through four,” Pilkington said. “Our fifth guy will be a guy who just got off a mission and isn’t in great shape yet. We’ll get better as the season goes on.”

Following the meet at USU, the Wildcats will have two weeks off before returning to action in the Montana State Invitational, held at Montana State University. WSU is without a home meet this season.

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