Colorado State cross country is ready to hit the ground running in one of the biggest meets of the year this weekend.
The men’s and women’s teams will travel to Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational. It is the first major step on the road to nationals for the Rams.
The No.29 CSU men’s team will look to find the same type of success they found last year when they finished second to BYU in a stacked field.
“That was sort of our coming out race for the men,” head coach Art Siemers said. “They weren’t on anyone’s radar and they ran against one of the best teams in the country pretty much man-for-man until the very end.”
BYU will only be sending their women’s team this year but the CSU men’s team will be tested by other national powerhouses such as No.19 North Carolina, No.24 Texas, and No.27 Iowa State. A strong showing this weekend could move the Rams up in the standings.
“It’s fun just to be on the stage but the guys want to win it all and I think that they can,” Siemers said. “We feel we’re really underrated at 29th in the country so we won’t be afraid of anybody.”
Senior Andrew Goodman led the men to a first-place finish at the CSU Invite to start the season. He’s excited to go into the meet with the Rams being one of the favorites this year.
“We’re looking to live up to expectations whereas last year we kind of went out there just hoping to turn heads,” Goodman said. “This year the expectation is that we win and we want to make sure we go do that.”
Goodman placed ninth overall at the meet last year and the men will be without some of their top runners from 2013 but Siemers and Goodman feel confident about the development of the younger runners.
“I think Jefferson Abbey will easily be right in the hunt with me, and Jerrell Mock has been keeping up with us everywhere,” Goodman said. “I’m excited to see what they do.”
The women placed 18th (out of 28) last year but were hampered by injuries heading into the event. CSU’s women are aiming for a top-ten finish this time around, according to Coach Siemers.
They will compete against a handful of ranked opponents such as No.3 Michigan State, who placed second at the 2013 Roy Griak Invitational. This year’s 36-team field also includes No.11 Butler, No.20 Boise State, No.22 Vanderbilt and No.28 Minnesota.
“It’s very stacked on the women’s side but that’s the way we want it,” Siemers said.
Junior Ali Will knows the Rams will need a strong performance from her in order to finish top-ten and she’s itching to go.
“We haven’t raced for three weeks so all of us are super anxious to race,” Will said. “I think we’re all ready to roll for the weekend.”
Will also said freshman standout Darby Gilfillan has been impressive in practice, a sentiment echoed by Siemers.
“This is [Darby’s] first college 6K and we think she’s going to storm onto the scene,” Siemers said.
With the men’s team earning national recognition, the women are eager for their chance to do the same. The women want to be one of the top teams not just in the conference, but the country. Seeing the men reach that level already adds a little extra motivation for the women’s team.
“We want to be on that list too and be noticed in the Mountain West,” Will said. “We look up to the guys for what they were able to do and obviously we would love to go to nationals with them this year.”
For the Rams, both men and women, that journey to nationals starts this weekend at the Roy Griak Invitational.
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at email@example.com and on Twitter at @emccarthy22.