Colorado State cross country looks to bounce back at Washington Invitational

The Colorado State men’s and women’s cross country teams will have a change in scenery for their second meet of the 2016 season.

Instead of going to Notre Dame for their second meet, like the Rams have in prior seasons, they will travel to Seattle to compete in the Washington Invitational on Oct. 1.

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In contrast to the Rams opening meet of the season, the number of teams competing in Seattle will be much more condensed. Head coach Art Siemers believes this will benefit his experienced group of athletes.

“It will be nice because we are going to be able to have space to get into the race and establish our own game plan,” Siemers said. “It will be easier than Griak where there were hundreds and hundreds of athletes surrounding you at the very beginning.”

Despite the number of teams competing not being large, the amount of talent is. Saturday’s meet will feature some elite programs: Oregon, Washington, Washington State and Harvard on the women’s side. Oregon is nationally ranked in the top four in both men’s and women’s cross country this season. Washington has also seen a lot of recent success and has frequently competed in the NCAA national championships.

“These teams are big time, but this will gave us a lot of confidence,” Siemers said. “Racing some of the best schools in the country in a smaller format will help us.”

Another difference between the two meets that should benefit the Rams is the speed of the course. While the Rams opened the season running on a tough, hilly course, Seattle will be on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“It’s like a track on grass,” Jefferson Abbey said. “It’s extremely flat which results in some fast times. On the fast courses you need to be ready to grind at a fast pace. There are no excuses on courses like that”.

Though CSU turned in some stellar individual performances at the Roy Griak invitational last week, injuries depleted their overall performance. On the men’s side, All-American senior Jefferson Abbey as well redshirt sophomore Cole Rockhold had to grind through minor injuries. Darby Gilfillan was also battling an illness on the women’s side.

Now at full strength, All-American Jefferson Abbey has a clear picture of what his team needs to do to succeed in Seattle.

”What I have to do individually is exactly what we need to do as a team,” Abbey said. “We need to shake off any lack of confidence or timidity that we have. It doesn’t matter how good those guys are, We are a damn good team.”

Current Mountain West men’s cross country athlete of the week Jerrell Mock was also far from pleased with how his team performed last week. After taking home the gold in the men’s 8k, he is confident his team can rise to the occasion this weekend.

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“I think we definitely have to learn a lot from the last meet because it definitely didn’t go as well as we were hoping,” Mock said. “Hopefully we can get it together and put on a better showing. And we definitely are capable of doing that.”

Coach Siemers knows that when his team is performing to their maximum potential, they have the ability to perform extremely well. He also believes that when two of his top runners, Abbey and Mock, are at their best it motivates the entirety of the team. This could be crucial to the Rams success on Saturday.

“When were at full strength and Jarred and Jeff are going back and forth towards the front it gives the guys a lot of confidence,” Siemers said. “I think it motivates them to run faster as well.”

The Rams are eager to make a statement to top-tier competition this Saturday in Washington.

“Our men fell in the rankings and we want to prove that we are better than we were at Griak and the Women want to prove that they belong in the rankings,” Siemers said.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz