The only challenge facing the men’s and women’s cross-country teams Friday in Laramie, Wyo., was a poorly designed course.
Both teams cruised to victory with relative ease at Wyoming’s Cowboy Invitational – the men finishing with 18 points and the women with 19 – the but they had to deal with a poorly designed course that left everyone running confused.
“We ran the whole race the wrong way,” said junior Mike Nicks, who won the 4-mile race with a time of 21 minutes and 42 seconds. “It got so bad that the Wyoming coach (Jeff Sanchez) had to lead us on a golf cart to make the course about four miles.”
Nicks said the confusion was due, in part, to the fact that there were no markers anywhere on the course.
“We really had no idea where to go,” he said.
The women’s team faced a similar challenge, as front-runner Jen Kintzley found herself guessing which way to turn and which path to take.
“I was yelling at these people asking them where to go and they didn’t know,” said the CSU senior who won the 4-kilometer race with a time of 15:03. “I came to one point where I just guessed where to turn, and it ended up being right.”
Though it was a challenge to navigate the course, Kintzley said she was pleased with the meet and with the team’s performance.
“It felt good to start things off with a victory,” she said. “It gave the team more confidence.”
With two of the team’s top runners – seniors Meg Larson and Kim Leal – sitting the meet out, head coach Del Hessel put an unusual mix of distance and middle-distance runners on the starting line.
“I know it’s an odd mix,” Hessel said. “But we wanted to see what (the team) could do when forced to run up front.”
What Hessel saw was a great performance from a young, banged-up women’s team.
Junior Katie Yemm – coming back from a stress fracture – put doubts about her recovery to rest as she took third-place overall.
Following Yemm were freshmen Brittanie Saunders and Danielle Korb, senior Kim Watson, sophomore Crystal Clark, senior Mary Ridder and sophomore Colleen Blair, who finished 4th-9th, respectively.
The victory also helped the women’s team to relax and not worry about where it stands, Kintzley said.
“I think after Friday all of us are feeling better about the team,” she said.
The men’s team had a similarly great performance in the absence of its top four runners.
As with the women’s team, Hessel decided to sit out seniors Bill Michel, Dylan Olchin, Reagan Robb and Austin Vigil for the race, leaving Nicks and a group of newcomers to pick up the slack and lead the Rams to victory.
They did just that.
Freshman Mike Cienculli, who, according to Hessel, has shown a lot of promise in the early going, finished second in the race with a time of 21:44. Senior BYU-transfer Ammon Larsen and sophomore Josh Glabb came in together at third and fourth with a time of 21:52, while sophomore Paul Michel rounded out the top-five team scorers with an eighth place finish.
“We ran pretty good,” Nicks said. “There wasn’t a lot of competition, but we did a good job of staying together for most of the race.”
The Rams should expect stronger competition Saturday at the Ram Invitational when Division II champion Western State College of Gunnison, Colo., and Mountain West Conference rival Air Force roll into town looking to make a statement.
“It will be a close race,” Nicks said. “We’ll be running our best guys and hopefully (Western and Air Force) will bring all of theirs. We1d like to beat them, but it will be close.”