The Running Rams of CSU’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams have put in the effort and the miles. Now it’s time to see where the teams stand.
Saturday morning, while many students are preparing for the Rocky Mountain Showdown, both the men’s and women’s teams, as well as their coaches, will gather in the open space area on South Overland to run an intra-squad meet.
“We want to see how close we are from the first runner to the 15th,” said head coach Del Hessel. “We hope to see the top 13 men finish within 30 seconds of each other. That’s what you hope for in a sport like this.”
With the men’s team running with more depth and talent than seasons past, Hessel said he likes what he’s seen thus far from the team.
“Several things make me think this will be an outstanding year,” he said. “We have talent, depth, but most of all an ability to train hard without over-training; handle a heavy load without stress.”
Though there are only seven varsity spots on the team to fill, Hessel said the 13 athletes competing for those spots have done nothing to hinder their teammates.
“The competition is keen,” he said. “I like the team’s approach in that everyone is complementing everyone else. They are all trying to help each other progress.”
It’s that progression that could lead the men’s team to its goal of a Mountain West Conference title.
“I think we have an excellent opportunity to win conference,” Hessel said. “But it is a very tough conference. BYU would be tough to dethrone and we can’t overlook teams like New Mexico or Air Force.”
Hessel added that with the season just getting underway the main goal is for the team to stay together and near the front during competition.
“If we can do that up to the last mile, we’ll have a great shot at winning,” he said.
To help themselves stay healthy many of the athletes on the men’s side said they have been doing what they can.
“Last year I started off good, but burned out,” said freshman Paul Michel, who made an impression last year in his first season. “I’m smarter this time around, making sure I eat right, sleep right and train hard.”
As for the women’s side, Hessel said he is excited to see how the meet this weekend plays out.
“We have such a wide diversity of talent that I’m not sure how it will play out, until I see them run together,” he said.
Hessel singled out the team’s top five – junior Katie Yemm, seniors Kim Leal, Jen Kintzley and Marget Larson, and sophomore Colleen Blair – as a solid group of “proven athletes.”
According to Hessel, the interesting side of the team is where the drop-off from fifth runner to sixth runner begins.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we have from fifth to 10th place,” he said. “I really cannot say how this team will evolve this season.”
Saturday’s meet should help Hessel clarify those doubts.