Cross county coach Bryan Berryhill knew right away that his 2007 women’s team had something he hadn’t seen in any other CSU cross country team he had coached.
“We knew they were a special team from the beginning from how quickly they bonded together, how much they wanted (the conference championship) together,” he said.
Senior April Thomas also felt the uniqueness of the team.
“I think we all knew that we would have a different dynamic this year,” she said.
And now the women on that team have proven that they are extraordinary.
The team won the Mountain West Conference Championship, taking the trophy away from the Brigham Young Cougars, who have topped the podium for the past 9 years.
And the astonishing efforts by the women don’t stop there. Thomas won the women’s individual title with a time of 21:20 after breaking away from two BYU girls and dominating the last 1,000 meters of the 6-kilometer race. Thomas’ teammate Kirsten Anthony was only two seconds behind to capture second place.
“When I got to that finish line, it was amazing,” said Thomas, who was awarded female Athlete of the Year. “I saw Kirsten and it was fantastic.”
For Anthony, seeing Thomas break through the tape helped her to pass the two BYU girls that Thomas had already passed.
“Seeing her go after that win, I thought ‘I have to go help her’,” Anthony said.
Ram runners Kristen Hemphill, Allison Gohl and Thomas’ twin sister, Melissa Thomas, rounded out scoring runners for CSU in third through fifth place, respectively.
Gohl was also named the MWC Female Freshman of the Year, while CSU’s Jake Keyser was given the same honor on the men’s side.
“I was really surprised and not really expecting it because there are some great athletes out there, “Gohl said. “It was just another way that everything came together (on Saturday).”
To top it all off, Berryhill was named the women’s coach of the year.
But that award isn’t nearly as important to him as seeing the women win a title that has never been brought back to CSU in the program’s nine-year history.
“Standing back and getting to see the girls hold the trophy was the highlight of the year,” he said.
The men’s team was unable to secure a place atop the podium and finished fourth in the 8-kilometer race.
“We had a couple of guys who ran pretty well and a couple who didn’t,” Berryhill said. “They can’t put it all together on the same week.”
Berryhill believes that one of the reasons the men’s team has not been finishing as well as the women’s is that the men didn’t bond as well.
Throughout the entire season, the women’s squad has run as a unit. Runners and coaches alike attribute the team’s success to the unity and cohesion that is found within the team.
“Having all of the girls on my mind and knowing how much we want the win will make you run a little faster,” Anthony said.
Thomas mirrored Anthony’s sentiments.
“We had a better idea of what it meant to be a team this year,” she said. “It has been great since the beginning and it has gotten better and better.”
For Gohl, this is her first real team experience, and in her words, it has been incredible.
“Everyone is always so supportive of each other while we are running and when we are not running,” she said. “It seems pretty exceptional.
“It is a big blessing to run with such great girls.”
Cross country beat reporter Anica Wong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Women Team Results:
1. Colorado State University
2. Brigham Young University
3. University of New Mexico
6. Air Force Academy
9. San Diego State
Women Individual Results: (CSU)
1. April Thomas-21:20
2. Kirsten Anthony- 21:22
7. Kristen Hemphill- 21:42
8. Allison Gohl-21:43
15. Melissa Thomas-22:19
17. Heather Loseke-22:23
19. Chantelle Dron-22:26
23. Lauren Kleppin-22:48
32. Danielle Rawlings-23:11
Men Team Results:
3. Air Force Academy
Men Individual Results: (CSU)
9. Jeremy Freed- 25:17
16. Andres Urbina- 25:31
23. Jake Keyse -26:01
28. Scott Sanders- 26:17
29. Kip Taylor- 26:22
32. Jeff Wahl -26:42
34. Steve Swartz -27:15