The Weber State University men’s and women’s cross-country teams opened the season this past Friday as they competed in the Utah Open in Murray, Utah. They competed against runners from the University of Utah, Brigham Young University and Boise State University.
On a hot, sunny day the men’s team was the first to race in the 6K, a race rarely run at the collegiate level as a distance for the men. With senior Mike Hardy redshirting this fall, WSU head coach Paul Pilkington said he was excited to see how the team looked early on. He also wanted to use the race as a workout as they prepare for the bigger races later on in the season.
“Our four and five runners this year are freshmen, so it was good for them to get our and run their first collegiate race,” Pilkington said. “With Mike redshirting, it will be interesting to see who steps up and runs well near the end of the year.”
The race was fast from the start as the runners from BYU took the early lead and ran a solid pace. Jonathan Nelson of BYU edged out his teammate Tylor Thatcher by four seconds to win the race in a time of 18:58.7. Trevor Ricks led the WSU runners through as he took sixth with a time of 19.18.1. Tip Worob finished 12th, and Tyler Robinson finished 19th. The team will rely heavily on those three throughout the season. Robinson said he is confident after the first race.
“The team did all right, and it felt good to get after and run fast,” Robinson said. “I feel that we are going to get faster as the season goes on. We are a young team, but the best is yet to come.”
The 24th-ranked women’s team then took the course to run the 4K race, another rare distance for the runners. Once again, two runners from the same university set a hot pace and went on to win as Emma Bates and Marisa Howard finished first and second for BSU, but WSU redshirt freshman Kelsey Braithwaite placed third in her first cross-country race in nearly two years. Sophomore Jamie Stokes finished sixth, and said she hopes to build on a great freshman year.
“Kelsey was eighth at Foot Locker Nationals a few years ago and is coming back from surgery on her foot,” Pilkington said. “She ran really well for this being her first meet in two years. This was the first race for a lot of freshmen, and I feel that they ran well.”
All-American Amber Henry will not open up her season until later this fall, as she ran late into the summer.
Pilkington said he feels he has another strong team that is well deserving of being ranked in the top 25 in the nation.
“We didn’t run three of our freshmen; they will get their first chance this coming Saturday,” he said. “We are excited to see what they can do. They are going to be contributors to an already good team. We deserve the ranking we have, and hopefully as the season progresses we can make our way up the rankings.”
The Wildcats will return to action this Saturday when they travel to Provo, Utah, to participate in the BYU Invitational.