The Weber State University men’s and women’s cross-country teams will compete in separate events this weekend as they prepare for the Big Sky Conference Championships later this month.
The distinct events for both Wildcat teams will be held in different locations around the country. The men’s team will be competing at the NCAA Pre-National event in Louisville, Kent., and the women will be competing in the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis.
The WSU women’s cross-country team currently stands as the 13th-ranked team in the nation, the highest national ranking the team has ever had. The team will be running a 6-kilometer event on Friday morning with 19 of the top 30 teams in the nation. The women’s team has placed first twice and second once in three meets this season.
Amber Henry, a WSU junior and 2011 Big Sky Conference champion, said the national ranking for the Wildcats is a welcome result of many years of work for the women’s team.
“(It feels) really good,” Henry said, “especially just knowing that we worked hard. It’s been an ongoing process for a few years, and we’re all in it together. It’s really neat . . . For a lot of us, it’s our third or fourth year running, and for those years, we’ve just been working hard. It has been a cumulative (effort) over the past years. Once our fitness is there and Coach gets us to that point, then a lot of it’s mental — just knowing that we’ve put in the work and that we can do it. You’ve got to mentally prepare yourself, know that you’ve worked hard and got to where you have doing that and follow through.”
Henry has finished first twice this season and has a third-place finish as well in three events this year. She has also been named the Big Sky Women’s Cross-Country Athlete of the Week three times in three meets this season.
The men’s team will head to Louisville to compete on the same 10-kilometer course where the NCAA National Championship event will be held next month.
“The pre-nationals meet is a chance for our men’s team to run the course that the nationals (event) will be held on,” said WSU sophomore team member Trevor Ricks. “It’s a good opportunity to see where we stand on a larger scale . . . There will be a lot of very good teams coming to compete in both Kentucky for the men and Wisconsin for the women. It will give us a taste of what regionals and nationals will be like.”
The men’s team has had a first-place finish, a second-place finish and a fourth-place finish in three events this season. The men have been led by Wildcat senior John Coyle, who finished in second place overall last meet and has led WSU in all three meets this season. Ricks finished a few places behind Coyle to be the second-place Wildcat last meet.
“We hope that everything comes together well for us,” said Ricks about the men’s team. “After this weekend, we just have conference (races), then regionals, then nationals. This is what we’ve been working toward. If everyone can stay healthy and have good races, then we should turn some heads, because they’ve got depth and are a very talented team. The men should do well because we have some solid runners that can really compete.”
Henry said she has high hopes for the women’s team as well.
“I know that we’re going to place really high at region . . . it’s a big goal we’re shooting for. At nationals, (we hope) to place where we’re ranked . . . or within the top 15. I feel like that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
After the weekend’s events, the Wildcats will prepare to compete in the Big Sky Championships in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Saturday, Oct. 27.