The pieces are beginning to fall into place for CSU’s men’s and women’s cross country teams.
After running an intra-squad meet Saturday morning, both teams showed they are ready to make this season a memorable one.
“It went really good,” said junior Austin Vigil, who transferred from Adam’s State College in Alamosa, Colo., last winter. “I was pleased with my performance, but even more pleased with what the team did as a whole.”
What the team did was run in a tight pack of about eight runners up to the last mile of the eight-mile course.
Junior Bill Michel, the team’s top finisher at nationals last season, led the pack while Vigil and junior Dylon Olchin followed close behind. Junior Mike Nicks, sophomore Josh Glabb, Brigham Young transfer Ammon Larsen and freshmen Matt Cienculli and Nelson Palacios rounded out the top eight.
“We had seven guys in a group at one point,” Olchin said. “That is what we need to do when we race: stick together as long as possible and at the last mile run like it’s every man for himself.”
Though the run went over well for some, others found it to be more than they bargained for.
“I didn’t expect it to be so hard,” Olchin said. “Everyone came out firing and running fast.”
Sophomore Paul Michel agreed.
“I wasn’t too ready for the run,” he said. “I came out flat (Saturday). I need to be a little more rested and start off with the front guys.”
With a strong top seven and even more depth behind, coaches from the Mountain West Conference chose the CSU men’s team to take the conference crown this season. However, the team said such preseason praise amounts to little.
“They picked us last year, too,” Olchin said. “But, it didn’t happen.”
“With so much talent and depth, we are the team to beat,” he said. “I think we have a great shot at it this year because everyone is focused on it.”
Prior to Saturday, questions abounded with regards to the depth of the women’s team. Head coach Del Hessel, openly wondered which of his young athletes – if any – would step up and show him something.
Saturday morning they did just that.
Though the strong group of seniors Meg Larson, Kim Leal and Jen Kintzley finished 1-2-3 on the four-mile course – followed by sophomores Colleen Blair and Crystal Clark – it was the performance of the team’s freshmen that everyone was talking about.
“We have a bunch of new freshman that are really going to help the team a lot,” said Blair, last season’s MWC Freshman of the Year.
Of that group, Blair singled out Danielle Korb, Charlotte Steele, and Brittanie Saunders as the freshmen capable of making an impact.
“All of them are looking good right now,” Blair added.
Larson, an All-American steeplechaser, also liked what she saw during the run.
“I thought we looked pretty good,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we handled it pretty well.”
As for what to expect from the season, Blair said the team’s focus and desire should determine the outcome.
“We’re going to be really good with the help of our freshmen,” she said. “We just need to focus and come together as a team to get back to nationals.”