The sports drought is over for the Wildcats.
The first athletic event in eight months — The Weber State Invitational— was held at Round Valley Golf Course on Nov. 7, in Morgan.
WSU’s men’s cross country head coach Corbin Talley said plans for the meet came together after the Big Sky told teams they could race twice in the fall, before the upcoming spring season.
The meet was set after COVID-19 protocols were put in place, and the team received approval from Morgan County.
BYU and Montana State’s cross country teams traveled to participate, but while Montana State made the bus ride, the team didn’t race after one of their athletes had a positive COVID-19 test on the morning of the meet.
The Wildcats lost the meet by the skin of their teeth 29–28, but placed three runners in the top five spots on the 8K course.
Coming in 2nd place was WSU’s sophomore Bronson Winter with a time of 23:57. He was followed by Wildcats Dallin Leatham and Taylor Dillon, who finished in 4th and 5th place with times of 24:03 and 24:09.
“Our top four guys ran extremely well. The team’s been working really hard so we were proud of them for staying focused through all of this, so it was nice to see that payoff in a really good meet,” Talley said.
Taking 1st place was Cougar Casey Clinger.
BYU is the reigning NCAA Men’s Cross Country Champions, and the team is currently the No. 2 ranked cross country team in the nation by the Men’s Cross Country National Coaches Poll.
BYU is second only to Northern Arizona, WSU’s fellow Big Sky school.
No teams ran the 5K women’s course, but Wildcats Lexie Thompson, Summer Allen and Billie Hatch ran across the finish line in the top three spots in the individual women’s race.
“It’s always fun to race; it was so relieving to run again after not being able to compete for months,” Thompson said.
The last cross country competition for WSU was nearly a year ago, when they competed in the Big Sky Championships in November 2019, where the men’s team took second place and the women’s team finished in fourth.
“I was excited just to be back out there in a Weber jersey. Our team stayed pretty motivated through it all when we didn’t have any competition races, but it definitely felt good to get back out there and represent Weber like that,” Winters said.
Fueled by their renewed excitement, the team is looking to keep improving and competing at a high level.
“What we want to work on is just getting our other runners to close the gap and be closer to where our top four runners are, and we have a lot of guys I believe that can do that,” Talley said.
Teamwork and keeping a positive mindset are two key areas the team wants to keep focused on.
“We try to go out and have a good mindset of what we’re working toward and what we’re building for our cross country team and just always be out there for each other,” Winters said.
Falling short by a point against the defending national champions serves as a stepping stone into the upcoming spring season for the team.
“We’ve definitely been underdogs in a lot of the rankings that we’ve been in, so we want to make a statement of we’re strong confident runners and we’re very powerful as a team. We’re pushing to get to the NCAA Championships,” Winters said.
The Wildcats men’s cross country team is ranked No. 2 in the Big Sky’s 2020 Preseason Coaches Poll while the women’s team comes in 3rd-ranked in the conference.