After a storied 2013 season featuring a second-place finish at the Mountain West Championships, a Nationals appearance for the first time since 2005, and two all-conference runners in Andrew Goodman and Jefferson Abbey, the Colorado State cross country team begins their fall season expecting to have similar success. According to the league’s preseason coaches’ poll, the rest of the conference also believes that CSU can repeat last year’s performance. CSU sits only behind five-time defending champion New Mexico in the poll released earlier this summer.
“One of our big goals is to try to stop New Mexico’s run of five straight league titles on the men’s side, and I think we’re in a position to do that,” Coach Art Siemers said. “We’ve got some experience coming back from last year’s team that got second, as well as some transfers to help replace what we lost from the guys who graduated.”
One of the biggest things that Siemers, as well as the veterans, has noticed is that runners are beginning to buy into the team’s success and hype surrounding the program. Goodman, one of the top runners in the entire conference last year, sees this program continuing to rise and believes they can match – if not beat – their 2013 performance.
“As a team, we definitely want to get back to the NCAA Championships after we made it back last year for the first time in nine years,” Goodman said. “It’s also important for us to improve on that 26th place finish, which was a disappointment for us at the end of the year.”
Along with Goodman, the Rams return redshirt sophomore Jefferson Abbey, a native of Fort Collins, who finished 14th in the 2012 Colorado State Open 5K and was an All-State runner in 2011 at Fort Collins High School.
“We took a really good step last year (finishing second), and the big thing is to just improve on that,” Abbey said. “We had a lot of seniors who graduated, but looking at this team, you can tell there’s a lot of really good depth. Every race for us is important, but obviously it’s important for us to place well at the conference meet and then at Nationals.”
Their quest to return to Nationals begins Friday, Sept. 5 when they host the CSU Invite here in Fort Collins. Following the Invite, the Rams will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota Sept. 27 for the Roy Griak Invitational, a meet in which they finished second last year. They will then travel to South Bend, Indiana for the Notre Dame Invitational before returning to Indiana for Pre-Nationals two weeks later. Their two biggest races will come on Halloween, when they compete in the Mountain West Championships, and Nov. 22 when they return to Indiana one more time for the NCAA national meet.
“These guys are incredibly dedicated and just love the sport,” Seimers added. “The national rankings just came out and we’re ranked 30th, and that’s the first time we’ve been ranked in the preseason since 2005, so I think we’re beginning to build a program that consistently competes at the national level.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Alec Grimes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @GrimesAlec