Albuquerque, prepare to be invaded. This weekend, the CSU cross-country teams travel south for the University of New Mexico Invitational.
Both the men and women teams opened the season by dominating the field last weekend in Wyoming. Most of the frontrunners rested and did not compete in the event. Saturday morning’s race offers a first look, for many, at a pair of strong Rams’ teams.
The athletes possess the lethal combination of talent and an oversized chip on each shoulder.
“Last season we went out on a whimper,” said assistant coach John Carter. “We have a lot of things to prove.”
With the talent to back up high pre-season expectations as the men are ranked 23rd nationally and the women 26th, the room for error is minimal. On Saturday, the top runners have their first chance to vindicate the praise lavished on them.
The men’s team features twelve runners fighting for nine spots. Each of the twelve have proven their worth to the coaching staff, it’s only a matter of deciphering which runners provide the best chance to win, Carter said.
A squad usually fields nine runners, seven to compete in the race and two for insurance, should there be an unexpected occurrence. With important meets in Minnesota and Iowa fast approaching, the attempt to solidify a solid core of runners begins this weekend.
The women enter the meet looking for a chance to jell. The team hopes to use the mix of senior leadership, talented transfers and freshmen flair to produce a group worthy of their national ranking.
“It will be interesting to put all of our team together,” said head coach Del Hessel. “I’m looking forward to running against a higher competition.”
Carter echoed the importance of competing as a complete team.
“We’ll finally be running all of our top runners,” he said. “Both the men and women are looking to win.”
With the all-important Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota looming on the horizon, the Rams plan on using this weekend as a training experience.
“We’re going to train through the race,” Carter said. “The times might not be as fast, but it will help us improve as a team.”
The chance for additional training does not mean the runners have retracted their goals.
“Both the men and women are looking to win,” Carter said.
This Week’s Prefontaine:
All of the top runners will be ready, but expect Senior Katie Yemm to lead the Rams victory march. The men will count heavily on leader Austin Vigil.
Saturday provides a tougher field than in Wyoming. The UNM Lobos are talented and at home. Texas-El Paso and Division II Western State typically run well.