The Colorado State men’s and women’s cross country teams are back in action on Friday to battle for the Mountain West crown.
The CSU women have not captured a Mountain West title since title since 2007. The men have never won the Mountain West, but have the best chance they’ve had since transitioning from the WAC.
The 2016 Mountain West Pre-Championship Men’s Cross Country Coaches’ Poll picked the Rams to finish first in the upcoming meet in Idaho. Boise State, who will be hosting the meet, comes in at a close second with 41 points to the Rams 48. Defending champions Air Force sit in third place with 40 points. The Rams anticipate these will be the teams duking it out for the championship.
“We feel this is the year we control our own destiny,” head coach Art Siemers said. “We just have to go out there and compete as a unit. If we do that we’ll do really well. It’s not about just Jerrell or Jeff or Grant it’s about can the team stay close together. If they stay close together then we’re going to be pretty tough to beat.”
The men have recently been ranked No.19 in the nation according to USTFCCCA after a performance in which they defeated 10 ranked teams at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. Jerrell Mock once again was the first Ram to finish. His time of 24:24.7 earned him 29th place individually. Grant Fischer was close behind him in 30th place with a time of 24:26. They have firmly established themselves as a dominant one-two punch for the Rams as of late.
“It’s definitely the best competition we’ve had, so that prepares us well for conference,” Fischer said. “We are in a good spot. Our goal going into Wisconsin was to be in the top 10. We did it, it wasn’t glamorous or anything but we got it done. We had a couple of guys have rough days but other guys rallied. It was a good team effort. It showed the depth of our team.”
Though the men weren’t able to win conference last year, Mock took home the individual title. So far, he has been even more dominant this season than last. He has finished first for the Rams in each of the last three meets. Back to back individual conference wins are in his sights.
“He’s the defending champion so I know he wants to defend his crown,” Siemers said. “Jerrell is consistent so a poor performance for Jerrell is still outstanding. We know he’s Mr. consistent, we expect nothing but that from him.”
The women’s squad checks in at fourth place in the 2016 Mountain West Pre-Championship Women’s Cross Country Coaches’ Poll. Their 71 votes trail Air Force (81), Boise State (87) and New Mexico (100).
“On the women’s side we’ve been training really, really hard all year,” Siemers said. “Probably underperforming in the races but this crew is ready to go. They have looked so strong over the last few weeks. They’ve really come together as a team. We just hope to place a solid third and go to regionals and see if we can upset Utah or BYU and sneak into the NCAA championships.”
The women are coming off of a 23rd place finish out of 42 teams at Pre-Nationals. Janelle Lincks led the Rams in 54th place, crossing the finish line in 21:02.6. Ali Kallner was the fourth Ram to finish, earning 159th place. As a true freshman last season, Ali was All-Conference and finished first for the Rams at the Mountain West Championships.
“I think we all felt a little bit tired at Pre-Nats and have a lot more in us than we showed,” Kallner said. “We definitely were not satisfied with our finish and want to make up for that at conference.”
If everything comes together for both teams, they each may be competing in the NCAA Championships in a few weeks.
“The hope is we go in and win it,” Fischer said. “I think everyone is on the same page there. We just have to take care of business.”
The Mountain West Cross Country Championships will be held this coming Friday at the Falcon Crest Golf Club in Kuna, Idaho. The women’s 6k race is slated for a 10 a.m. MT start. The men’s 8k will begin at 10:45 a.m. MT.
Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz