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It’s no surprise that spirits were high in Balch Field House at the cross country team’s daily practice Tuesday afternoon. Although it’s early in the season, the team already has a lot to look forward to.
In addition to both the men’s and women’s teams showing improvement in a time trial at the beginning of the month, the team is excited to welcome newcomers Aislinn Ryan and Claire Maduza, both freshmen, to the women’s team and to welcome back senior Erik Heinonen for a sixth year of eligibility.
“We are as optimistic as we ever could be in September,” said assistant coach Jay Johnson.
The coaches aren’t the only ones feeling optimistic about CU’s talent on the cross country course. The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced Tuesday that the CU women’s team has been ranked second in the preseason poll and the men have been ranked third.
Although the teams have produced strong results at the Buffalo Ranch time trial on Sept. 2, it’s still too early to tell how the competitive season will turn out.
“The time trials are not an accurate reflection because no other schools are present. It is like a scrimmage for other sports,” Johnson said.
The NCAA pre-national meet in Indiana on Oct. 14 will be a better indicator of where the team stands in relation to other schools. At last year’s pre-nationals, CU had four men and three women finish in the top 20, including one woman in first place. Included in these top finishers were Billy Nelson, Stephen Pifer, James Strang, and Jenny Barringer, all of whom will be returning for the 2006 season.
Despite a positive start, head coach Mark Wetmore has his work cut out for him. He has set high goals for himself and the team: to defend the Big 12 championship and to advance to the NCAA.
“For men, we have a strong, experienced returning group, but we lost five-sevenths of our varsity women’s team at graduation,” Wetmore said.
The team’s next meet will be the Rocky Mountain Shootout at CU’s Buffalo Ranch next weekend. A few teams CU will be keeping an eye on are Adams State, Western State and Colorado State’s nationally ranked women’s team.
“This meet will be a little better than in the past,” Wetmore said, since other teams have had several more years of experience than CU at this meet.