The most important weekend for any student-athlete is his or her conference championship. For the CSU men’s and women’s cross country teams, that weekend is now upon them.
The teams will travel to Salt Lake City, where Utah will be hosting the Mountain West Conference Championships on Saturday. This will be the first race that either team has had in the last two weeks.
The women are coming off a strong showing at the Pre-National meet in Indiana, having finished 11th overall among a strong field of teams from around the country. Still, Head Coach Bryan Berryhill knows that they will have to come out strong on Saturday in order to beat Mountain West leader Brigham Young.
“Anytime you get to race BYU in a championship race it’s always a challenge,” Berryhill said. “I think (the women) have an opportunity to do something special.”
Early in the season the women were able to top the Cougars at the BYU Autumn Classic on Sept. 9, finishing 16 points ahead of the Mountain West’s top team. Berryhill said that win will give the women confidence this weekend, but that the race will still be a challenge.
“BYU is running a couple of different athletes than what they ran (at the Classic) and of course we are too, so it’s going to be a couple different teams,” Berryhill said, “I just want to see them go toe-to-toe with BYU and say ‘we think we are as good as you are.’ Then if it doesn’t work out I’ll be just as proud.”
The men’s team will be trying to get back on track with this meet, having struggled over the past two months. They are coming off a disappointing 29th-place finish at the Pre-National meet, but Berryhill said practice has been good and the men are ready to go this weekend.
“I think the last two weeks have been the best team workouts that we have had all season,” Berryhill said. “I just want to see them run well; I don’t think we have lived up to expectations yet.”
The MWC Championships is the last race before the NCAA Regional Championships on Nov. 1. While the NCAA Championships are the ultimate goal for the team at this point, Berryhill said the MWC Championships are important for the team’s confidence leading up to the more important meets.
“From an NCAA standpoint (the MWC Championships) don’t mean a whole lot, but from a pride issue it does,” he said.
Staff writer Nick Hubel can be reached at email@example.com.