The Colorado State men’s cross country team is looking to continue its fairy tale season this week at the NCAA Mountain Regional in Logan, Utah. The Rams are coming off a stellar performance at the Mountain West Championships where they placed first behind strong performances from Jerrell Mock and Cole Rockhold, who finished first and second, respectively.
“It gave us a lot of confidence,” Rockhold said. “We had several guys who ran pretty well and going into the regional meet we think we’re in a pretty good spot. We have enough points to qualify for nationals so we’re sitting pretty going into regionals, looking at it as a good test just to see where we stack up against the No. 1 and No. 5 team.”
The Rams are currently No. 8 in the most recent USTFCCCA National Coaches’ Poll, rising ten spots from their preseason ranking. This makes the Rams the highest ranked team in the Mountain West and ties the highest ranking in program history. Since the third week of the 2003 season, CSU has been ranked for 36 consecutive regular season polls, all under head coach Art Siemers.
Despite pacing the MW, CSU still trails three teams in the Mountain Region. Northern Arizona (No. 1), BYU (No. 2) and Colorado (No. 5) all sit ahead of CSU in the national rankings, with Northern Arizona and BYU flip-flopping in regional rankings.
“That was a big goal for us, but obviously what’s important for us now is moving up in the NCAA,” Mock said. “So if we can put on a good show at regionals and really put everything we have out there at nationals, I think we’ll out-perform what were ranked to do or predicted to do.”
A native of Logan, Utah, Mock has the luxury of running in his home town this weekend. The Rams will be looking for him to replicate his performance from the MW Championships where he earned his second consecutive individual MW title.
“It was really exciting to be able to pull it off,” Mock said. “For the team to get our first ever title, that was a goal we’ve had since my freshman year and to do it in my last year and have everything come together was really exciting.”
The Rams posted 31 points in the MW Championship and are looking to either match or improve upon that performance this weekend.
“A huge goal for us was to win a championship because we’ve got a lot of track & field banners up, but we didn’t have any men’s cross country,” head coach Art Siemers said.
The men’s team has already qualified for the 2017 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The focus for them right now is having a good outing in the Mountain Regional in hopes of moving up in the rankings.
“We’re running our first 10k of the year so we’re probably going to start off a little conservative and try to move up in the second half of the race and try to stay healthy for nationals,” Siemers said.
The competition in the Mountain Region has been hefty this year, with as many as seven teams capable of qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Given that they have already clinched a spot in the next round of competition, the Rams will aim to escape Logan with a clean slate of health and prepare for the week ahead.
“Because our region did so well this year, we have about seven teams that should go (to the NCAA Championships),” Siemers said. “We want to do well there, but our main focus is a week later.”
“We’re always wanting more,” Rockhold said. “This is the best the team’s ever been ranked this late in the season so we just really want to keep improving.”
The Mountain Regional is slated to take place Nov 10. at Utah State’s Steve and Dona Reeder Cross Country Course in Logan, Utah.
Collegian sports reporter Mamadou Balde can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @mamadoubalde62.