CROSS COUNTRY SEEKS FIFTH BIG 12 SWEEP
AUSTIN, Texas - The fourth-ranked Colorado men's cross country team, and ninth-ranked women's will be running for a fifth-straight sweep of both team and individual races when the eighth Big 12 Cross Country Championships are decided on the Barton Creek Lakeside Golf Course here Friday morning.
The men's 8k race will begin at 9:00 a.m. (CDT), followed by the women's 6k loop at 10.
Paced by course record wins by defending champions Jorge Torres and Molly Austin year ago in Columbia , Mo. , the then-third ranked men's and women's team won their seventh and sixth Big 12 Championships, respectively, at the A.J. Gustin Golf Course. Torres became just the second Buff to win three conference crowns in the fall, while Austin became just the second CU woman to successfully defend her title. It was the most dominant performance by either CU team as the men went 1-2-4-5-13 and the women, 1-2-3-11-17. Then-freshman Billy Nelson was named the league's Newcomer of the Year following his fifth place finish in the men's race.
While Texas A&M is the only other top-25 ranked team in the men's race (coming in at 25th), the women's race will be a battle between the Buffs, Missouri (17th), Nebraska (20th) and Baylor (24th).
"A&M has a tightly packed top five and were not far behind our guys at Pre-Nationals," said head coach Mark Wetmore. "If we make a tactical error, or struggle in the heat, their five could come in between our second and third.
"Like the A&M men, the Missouri women run in a tight pack, they could come in a hurry if we make a mistake. It will be a pretty sound race between the four teams."
The individual races are such that Wetmore says, "by no means can we expect that a CU runner will definitely keep the streak of individual titles alive."
The CU men and women return just two scorers each (Billy Nelson and Jon Severy on the men's side and Natalie Florence and Christine Bolf on the women's) from last year's championship squads. Both squads graduated last year's champions, lending room for the first new champion in both races since 2000 (men) and 2001 (women).
Challenging Buffs Dathan Ritzenhein (second in '01) and Nelson (fifth in '02), will be Texas' Paul Morrison, who was the second fastest Big 12 runner at Pre-Nationals two weeks ago, "and from what we understand, he made a tactical error and expected to be much further up. If we make a mistake, he's on his home course, in front of a home crowd and will be on the top of his game." commented Wetmore.
While Buffs Florence and Renee Metivier could be considered the heavy favorites in the women's race, Missouri's Amanda Bales and Valerie Lauver (fifth a year ago) could present a test. Bales was just a few seconds behind Florence at Pre-Nationals, "so she should be in the mix. After those, there will be a gap. But there's always someone that has an unpredicted good day."
Ritzenhein, Nelson, Florence and Metivier will be joined in black by freshmen Laura Zeigle and Brent Vaughn, sophomores Bolf, Jackie Zeigle, Ashley Wagle, Payton Batliner, Casey Burchill and Bret Schoolmeester and juniors Kendall Grgas-Wheeler, Kalen Toedebusch, Matt McCue, Jared Scott and Jon Severy.
Following the conference championships, both rosters of nine will be shaved to seven over the next two weeks before the Buffs continue their postseason schedule at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships, Nov. 15 in Riverdale, Utah.