A sea of red and green jerseys flocked to the finish line Saturday at Collindale Golf Course.
The CSU Invitational provided what it promised: a close contest between two of the state’s best running schools – CSU and Division II powerhouse Western State College.
In the women’s six-kilometer race it was the runnin’ Rams of CSU who came out victorious with a score of 26 to Western’s 37. Western State narrowly defeated the Rams by a count of 24-31 in the men/s 8k race.
Western senior Rebecca MacKie finished first overall in the race, followed by teammate Alisha Williams. But, it was CSU’s close pack – led by senior Jen Kintzley, who finished third with a time of 21:43 – that overtook Western’s top five.
“The women carried out our race plan very well,” said head coach Del Hessel. “The first three took care of business and everyone followed their lead.”
Behind Kintzley were fellow seniors Kim Leal, Kim Watson and Meg Larson, who took fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Junior Katie Yemm (eighth), senior Mary Ridder (ninth) and sophomore Colleen Blair (10th) rounded out the Rams’ top seven.
Though Kintzley led the Rams, it was Watson who was the story of the day, running a personal-best 21:49 and finishing a personal-best third on the team.
A late season replacement for Kintzley last cross country season, Watson is currently running her first full season of cross country and loving every minute of it.
“I tried to stay focused on my teammates and use them to pull me through the finish,” Watson said. “This is the first race where I have felt this good.”
Hessel was equally impressed with Watson/s performance.
“It was great watching Kim Watson finish third overall on the team,” he said. “She has thrown herself into the mix of making this team and has given us more depth.”
In the men’s race another Western State athlete, senior Josh Eberly took the overall title with a time of 24:56, while athletes from Western and CSU took the first 19 spots in the race.
“I started out with a five-minute (mile) pace,” said Eberly of his race plan. “I wanted to get around a turn first, so I started to pick it up. Austin (Vigil) went with me and we just started going from there.”
Eberly ended up edging out senior Austin Vigil, who finished second with a time of 25:01, as he led his team to victory. Following Vigil for the Rams were juniors Bill Michel at 25:12 and Dylan Olchin (25:18); sophomore Josh Glabb (25:30); and senior Raegan Robb (25:34), who finished fourth, sixth, ninth and 10th, respectively.
Though his team did not come out victorious, Hessel said the loss was not disheartening for the Rams.
“We pushed the envelope in our training before this race,” Hessel said. “I don’t want to take anything away from (Western) because they’re a good team; but our plan was not to dominate this race. We have two tough races in the next couple meets at North Carolina and Indiana, and we are looking to perform there.”
Hessel added that he was not concerned with his team’s performance because he could see they were running without restraint.
“As long as I can look at the end of the race and see everybody hurting and trying as hard as they can to finish, I’m satisfied,” he said.
Now, it is up the both teams to keep him that way.