The CSU men’s and women’s cross country teams will be looking for positive results today in the absence of some of the team’s top runners.
As the cross country teams head to Wyoming today to compete in the Cowboy Invitational, some of the top runners from both sides will not toe the starting line.
“I feel confident enough to sit our top three and see what the other guys can do,” said head coach Del Hessel about his men’s team.
Hessel added that by sitting some of his top runners – seniors Bill Michel, Dylon Olchin and Austin Vigil – he should be able to see how the rest of the team handles running up front.
“We have some nice, interchangeable parts,” he said. “This will give us the chance to see what some of those boys can do running up front and with tired legs.”
Hessel said he does not expect to see any dramatic performances from those athletes who are competing – namely senior Ammon Larsen, juniors Mike Nicks, Joey Alzola and Ben Marvin, sophomores Josh Glabb and Paul Michel and freshman Mike Cienculli – but he does believe they are capable of a strong performance.
“We have a talented top seven,” he said. “But we need to have other kids take on a leadership role. This will give them a chance to do that.”
Though winning is the ultimate goal, Hessel said it is not the most important factor facing the team right now.
“You don’t want to lose a meet,” he said. “But everything comes down to how you perform at the end of the year… we have a season to take care of.”
Following what he called a sub-par performance on an 8-mile course at the team’s intra-squad meet last weekend, Paul Michel said he is anxious to get to Wyoming and run on Wyoming’s 4-mile course.
“It’s a good race to start out with,” he said. “This course is shorter, and I feel I’m a better runner on a shorter course.”
Hessel has taken the some approach with the women’s team as he has with the men’s: sitting out his top runners.
Seniors Meg Larson and Kim Leal will not run the race, Hessel said, leaving seniors Jen Kintzley, Mary Ridder and Kim Watson; junior Katie Yemm; sophomores Colleen Blair and Crystal Clark; and freshmen Brittanie Saunders, Charlotte Steele and Danielle Korb, to pick up the slack
“It’s an odd mix,” Hessel said of his team. “But everyone who is running there has a purpose for running there.”
The main purpose for sending out an odd mix of athletes is to get them racing experience after a long layoff, Hessel said.
“Most of these girls sat out all or parts of last season due to injury,” he said. “This lets us know how far they are from being in racing condition.”
Hessel added that the presence of some of his middle-distance runners – such as Ridder and Watson – should help push the team along while allowing those athletes to build a stronger base.
Ridder, the Mountain West Conference champion in the 800 in 2002, agreed with Hessel’s assessment; however, she added that it doesn’t make doing cross country any easier.
“Cross country really isn’t my thing,” Ridder said. “I try really hard, but it’s difficult to run this distance.”
As for this weekend, Ridder said she plans to take the challenge of being a front-runner in stride.
“As with everything in cross, I’ll just try to run hard and stay with the team as best I can,” she said.
With the odd mix off distance and middle-distance runners, it appears the whole team may run the meet with a similar approach.