It’s one down and one to go for the Running Rams of CSU men’s and women’s cross country teams.
Having faced some of the toughest competition they may face all year last weekend in Charlotte, N.C., the Rams now head to Terre Haute, Ind., to take on another slew of nationally ranked teams in the Indiana State Invitational.
By placing two major meets against top-ranked competition, head coach Del Hessel said he was taking a gamble. However, up to this point his teams have come through.
“Whenever you have two big meets back-to-back it is a bit of a gamble,” Hessel said. “You don’t know whether the team can attain such high performances and maintain a high physical effort for back-to-back races.”
Though such scheduling may not be in the Rams’ favor, Hessel said it was necessary in order for the teams’ to have a chance to make it back to the NCAA National Cross Country Championships.
“With the selection process of nationals being as it is, we selected these two meets (North Carolina and Indiana State) to score points outside our region,” Hessel said. “It’s the best way for us to reach our goal to be selected to nationals.”
According to the NCAA track and field committee, the top two teams from the nine cross country regions in the country, as well as 13 at-large teams, are those that qualify for nationals.
At-large bids are determined by a team’s number of wins (points) against teams that qualify for nationals.
In Indiana, the Rams should have the opportunity to defeat teams that appear to be on their way to nationals, Hessel said.
As for the competition, Hessel said the men’s field should not be as talented as the one the Rams faced in Charlotte. But there will be a select few who the Rams will be looking out for.
“Our goal for this race is to win,” Hessel said. “I would like to see us beat Butler, who beat us last weekend.”
Junior Bill Michel, who had a less than stellar race in Charlotte, said beating Butler would be great, but the team is not focused entirely on that.
“We’d like to beat Butler,” Michel said. “But our goal is just to improve each week, each meet and focus on staying together as a team.”
Unfortunately for the Rams, they will be traveling without one of the team’s best competitors in junior Mike Nicks.
Nicks, who passed out last weekend after finishing seventh on the team, will stay home this weekend so team doctors can figure out what is wrong, Hessel said.
“We think that Mike has some ailment that we can’t identify,” Hessel said. “We’re not sure if it’s low iron or low blood sugar, but it has created great problems that are difficult to overcome.”
Junior Ben Marvin will travel in Nicks’ place.
On the women’s side, Hessel said the team’s goal heading into Indiana is to field a team of seven runners who can run together as a team and stay that way throughout the race.
“Our women are more capable of running better than last week,” Hessel said. “They need to put together one of their best performances (Saturday).”
Senior Kim Watson, who has moved up at least one spot on the team roster with every meet, said having another big race following the team’s letdown in Charlotte – where the team finished 10th – should benefit the women’s team.
“Most of the girls are disappointed with how they ran last weekend,” she said. “It’s good for us to go out and race immediately like this. Now we can prove ourselves after a race that wasn’t our best.”
– Edited by Jon Ackerman and Josh Hardin