With the CU cross-country team set to compete at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Fort Collins this weekend, this week’s CUI sports mailbag is all about the CU harriers.
1) What are the CU men’s cross-country team’s chances of winning the regional championship?
The men’s team is currently ranked No. 2 in the national coaches’ polls behind only Oklahoma State University, which is not a part of the NCAA Rocky Mountain Regional. The CU men’s team’s only true threat on Saturday may be Brigham Young University, but the Buffs finished 55 points ahead of the Cougars at Pre-Nationals in mid-October. Colorado, BYU and the University of New Mexico are in fact the only nationally-ranked teams in the Mountain Region, with BYU currently at No. 7 and UNM at No. 16. The CU men are also back-to-back Pac-12 Conference champions, the first time the team has won two consecutive conference championships since its Big 12 run from 1996-2007. Though the Buffs men return none of their scorers from last year’s national championship, they are ranked much higher going into this year’s Mountain Regional than they were last year. In order to qualify for the NCAA National Championships a team must only finish in the top three at its regional championship, so the Buffs should easily make the cut.
2) What about the CU women? What are their chances?
The women are currently ranked 24th in the national coaches’ polls, far lower than they were at this point last season. The women have a history of high-level competition though, having competed in the NCAA National Championships in 18 of the last 19 years (every year but 2008). The women are ranked No. 3 in the Rocky Mountain Region going into Saturday’s race, behind Weber State University and the University of New Mexico, meaning that the Buffs must perform to their full potential and not be outrun by fourth and fifth-ranked teams if they expect to earn a spot at the NCAA National Championship. The CU women were fifth at this year’s Pac-12 Conference championships, a race which they won as a team last year.
3) Who will be the top individual finishers on both the men’s and women’s side?
Sophomore Blake Theroux and junior Jake Hurysz will probably be the first and second finishers for the Buffs on the men’s side. Theroux and Hurysz finished seventh (23:40, 10 kilometers) and eighth (23:41) respectively at the Pac-12 Conference Championships this year. Junior Shalaya Kipp and freshman Carrie Verdon may be the top two finishers on the women’s side. Kipp finished 11th at the Pac-12 Championships this year with a 6-kilometer time of 20:36, and Verdon finished 16th in her first-ever conference championship with a time of 20:41. Kipp is a veteran of the cross-country team, having finished 9th at Pre-Nationals and 19th at the NCAA National Championships last year. She may be fatigued from a long season of running, however, having competed in the steeplechase at the 2012 London Olympics alongside former teammate Emma Coburn.
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