Running with a lethal combination of ease and determination, the Rams cross-country teams trampled the opposition Friday.
A slightly overcast and cool Wyoming evening provided the perfect conditions for the Ram runners to begin the season on top.
The men and women each claimed victory at the Wyoming Invitational in Laramie, Wyo.
The women easily ran to the win, scoring 30 points. University of Colorado-Colorado Springs finished second with 39 points.
Five of the top six women finishers were Rams, led by unattached runner Nicole Feest, who placed first. She finished the 2.5-mile race in 14 minutes, 19 seconds, but because she was running unattached, her score did not factor as part of the Rams final tally.
Crossing the finish line behind Feest were Michelle Carman (2nd, 14:22), Sarah MacKay (3rd, 14:24), and a duo of freshmen, Bekah Yetser (5th, 14:29) and Valerie McGregor (6th, 14:30).
“Everybody competed well,” said coach Del Hessel. “I was very encouraged with the freshmen performances. We needed at least two to step-up and round out our top nine.”
Freshmen runners for the men also finished well.
Redshirt freshmen Ryan Kirkpatrick edged out teammate Matt Petit, a sophomore transfer from West Virginia, as the top CSU finisher. Kirkpatrick completed the men’s four-mile course in 21:34, finishing fourth overall.
As a natural mid-distance runner, the cross country experience was a new one for Kirkpatrick.
“I was a little fatigued,” he said. “But running at Pingree Park this summer helped me with the altitude.”
The meet allowed Ram freshmen and transfers to compete in the high altitude and against collegiate competition, for the first time.
Running Rams new to the program not only gave the coaches a chance to evaluate their talent, but also provided a chance for the men and women frontrunners to rest.
“It was good to have the support of the top runners, who were not competing,” Kirkpatrick said. “They were there cheering us on.”
The encouragement was needed as the race neared its finale. With a pair of UCCS runners placing first and second and Kirkpatrick and Petit ending fourth and fifth, CSU needed another runner to finish strong.
Trailing a UCCS runner by 50 yards with under a mile to go, redshirt freshmen Dave Zakavec received word that his placement was critical to insure a Ram win.
Amazingly, Zakavec made up the ground and passed the runner for good with only 200 meters to go. He finished eighth in 21:58, seven seconds ahead of the UCCS runner.
“Dave’s performance really won the race,” Hessel said.
The men finished with 31 points to finish ahead of UCCS with 33.
Nelson Palacios (10th, 22:19), Dennis Flanagan (12th, 22:26) and John Nichols (17th, 23:05) made six Rams in the top twenty.
Runners of the Week:
Any of the women are deserving, but Sarah MacKay was most impressive. She returned from a car accident that broke her back, and finished third.
Redshirt freshmen Ryan Kirkpatrick and Dave Zakavec share the honor for their extraordinary efforts in their first collegiate meet.