Going into the Great American Cross Country Festival in Charlotte, N.C., the Running Rams of CSU cross country knew they would have their work cut out for them. However, they did not know they would be facing harsh Southern weather.
With some of the best teams in the nation competing in the event, many predicted fast, close finishes. Yet torrential downpours left the hilly course at Ballantyne Resort in a quagmire-like state, meaning slow times and muddy uniforms for all competitors.
Nevertheless, the rain and mud were not enough to stop about 350 collegiate men and women from toeing the starting line.
In the men’s eight-kilometer race, Henrik Ahnstrom of the University of Northern Arizona led the fourth-ranked Lumberjacks to a team score of 26 points and a first place finish, while Ahnstrom strolled to the overall title with a time of 26 minutes and 23.1 seconds.
The University of Georgetown (104 points) and Butler University (108), managed to hold on long enough to edge the Rams who came in with a total of 110 points.
“Everyone ran well,” said junior Bill Michel, one of the team’s front-runners who finished a season-low sixth on the team and 42nd overall with a time of 27:32.2. “If I ran where I should have ran we would have finished second.”
Senior Austin Vigil finished first for the Rams and 14th overall with a time of 26:58.1, while seniors Dylan Olchin and Ammon Larsen came in 18th and 19th, respectively recording times of 27:07.1 and 27:07.5.
Senior Raegan Robb (27:14.7) and sophomore Josh Glabb (27:19.5) rounded off the scoring for the Rams finishing 27th and 32nd, respectively.
Though the team put forth a strong effort, Michel said it could have been better.
“(Head coach Del) Hessel wanted five of us in the top 40 and we did that,” Michel said. “Only six points separated us from second place and that kind of hurts.”
“The team did well,” he said. “But I think we should have beaten Butler.”
The Rams will have another shot to beat the Bulldogs of Butler, October 5th, when the team travels to Indiana State University to compete in another meet. And, according to Olchin, the Rams will be ready for the Bulldogs.
“We didn’t know about Bulter before the race,”
Olchin said. “But next weekend we’ll be looking out for them. I think we can beat them for sure because we are aware of who they are now.”
Things weren’t as pretty for the Rams on the women’s side, where they found themselves running on a torn-up course against 12 nationally ranked teams.
“We were hoping to be in the top eight teams, so we could add to our point total in the standings,” said senior Kim Watson, whose team finished 10th overall. “I don’t think we hurt ourselves, but I know we didn’t help ourselves either.”
Top-ranked BYU dominated the 5k scoring 50 points while placing four of the first seven finishers. Home crowd favorite Shalane Flanagan, a senior from the University of North Carolina, won the event with a time of 17:48.1.
Senior Jen Kintzley led the way for the Rams, finishing 23rd overall while running 19:09.5.
Watson (38th, 19:26.4), senior Meg Larson (72, 19:54.7), junior Katie Yemm (80, 19:59.7), and senior Kim Leal (85, 20:02.4) rounded out the scoring for the Rams.
As she did Sept. 14 at the CSU Invitational, Watson found a way to pick up the tempo and finish a personal best second on the team.
This being her first full season of cross country, Watson said she attributes much of her success to her inexperience in cross country racing.
“I’m still new at cross (country), so the racing doesn’t faze me too much,” she said. “I don’t really know what I’m doing. All I know is that the first mile and a half is going to hurt so I just set my pace and then focus on staying with my teammates.”
With the team performing under its self-imposed expectations, Watson said to expect big things from the Rams Saturday in Indiana.
“Most of the girls are disappointed with how they ran, because they know they can run faster,” she said. “We should expect a lot out of ourselves this weekend, because we’ll have another shot to go out and prove that (Friday’s) race wasn’t our best.”
-Edited by Jon Ackerman and Ben Koerselman