The CSU cross country teams have been preparing for two weeks for their biggest race yet this season, the Mountain West Conference Championship race, and on Saturday, it’s finally here.
Despite disappointing recent losses, both teams are fully confident in their capability to compete and make CSU proud this weekend in San Diego.
The women are the defending MWC champions and will be looking to repeat last year’s success this weekend. After winning the conference for the first time last year, they went on to finish 15th in the NCAA Championship race.
At the beginning of this season, the team was picked in the coach’s poll as the team to beat. But so far the team has had less than a perfect performance, making their home in seventh place.
“We’ve struggled a bit,” said Bryan Berryhill, the head cross country coach. “We are coming off winning the title last year and were picked to win at the beginning of the season and we haven’t lived up to those expectations.”
The women are going into this race with two poor performances, which is the exact opposite from last year, when they had momentum from a string of three great races going into the conference championship. But this change may not be such a bad situation to be in.
“We are a very young team, and with a young team, I think going in as the underdog probably a better position than going in as the favored,” Berryhill said.
The runners seem confident in their talent and refuse to give up on their goals, no matter what people think.
“A lot of teams outside of CSU don’t expect a lot out of us, but we expect a lot out of ourselves, ” said Ellie Rastall, a redshirt freshman.
The men have also been struggling, but they are still within reach of their goal from the beginning of the season — to finish in the top two in conference and place in sixth or better in the region. The last two races have put them back and given them more of a challenge, but those races are behind them.
“This is really when season starts counting,” Berryhill said. “These are the two biggest races of the year. You can erase a lot of bad memories in one or two races.”
Berryhill said the team hasn’t lost its morale heading into the championships.
“I’m very amazed at how they can get upbeat after two pretty bad performances and still be positive and confident going into the conference meet,” Berryhill said.
The women will race first in a 6k course this weekend at Missions Bay Park in California against the eight other teams in the MWC. In the race will be the No. 28 Bingham-Young women’s team and the No. 23 New Mexico team.
The men will race shortly after on an 8k course against the five other teams in the conference. They will be racing quality competition in BYU’s No. 11 ranked team. BYU has won the conference title nine times in the 10-year history of the league.
Cross country beat writer Scott Callahan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.