Buffs Prepare For NCAA Title Defense
BOULDER - The University of Colorado second ranked men's and 22nd ranked women's cross country teams will be competing at the 2007 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday, Nov. 20. The men's team won the NCAA Mountain Region title last Saturday to earn an automatic bid and a chance to defend their title while the women's team placed fourth at the regional meet and received an at-large bid to participate in the race.
The Men's 10k race is slated for a 12:08 p.m. (EST) start and the women's 6k will follow at 12:58. An awards ceremony will follow the races. Indiana State will host the event at the Lavern-Gibson Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind. for the fourth consecutive year and the fifth time in six years.
The championship will be broadcast live for the first time ever on CSTV. The broadcast will start at 12 p.m. EST (10 a.m. MST) and will finish at 1:30 p.m. The race coverage will include interviews will several athletes, including Colorado's Jenny Barringer. The broadcast will also be streamed live on the internet and will be available at http://www.ustfccca.org/.
Colorado has come away from the NCAA Championship with at least one title in six of the last seven years. CU took home either an individual or team trophy from 2000-04. Kara Grgas-Wheeler won in 2000, leading the women to their first championship. The men followed up with a team championship in 2001. Jorge Torres won in 2002 and Dathan Ritzenhein won in 2003. Both teams took home hardware in 2004 and the men won the title again in 2006. The only year CU did not win a championship was in 2005.
The championship is the 21st consecutive race for CU's men and is the 25th in 26 years. The women will race in their 15th straight and have participated in 16 of the last 17.
Of the 31 men's teams participating, second-ranked Colorado will face three other Big 12 opponents in Big 12 runner-up No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Texas and No. 27 Iowa State. Only three of the 31 teams on the women's side are Big 12 schools. Colorado is joined by No. 24 Texas Tech and No. 30 Baylor.
The men's team looks good heading into the final race of the 2007 campaign and there is always the chance of being able to repeat as national champions. Several teams stand in the way of CU's repeat, including top-ranked Oregon. Oregon tied for fifth last year. Iona, UTEP and Wisconsin, which are ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, will be stiff competition as well for the Buffs.
"I feel confident about our opportunity to repeat," head coach Mark Wetmore said. "We have to run five or six solid races, but there doesn't appear to be any absolutely dominating team and I think we have a good chance.
"They (Oregon) race on different courses than we do, so we are not really familiar with where they have raced but they are definitely a strong team, I think there are five or six strong teams and which ever one has a good day on Monday will probably win."
Seniors Brent Vaughn and Stephen Pifer will pace the men along sophomore Kenyon Neuman; all have placed in the top three for the Buffs this season. Vaughn led the men in 2006 by placing 12th overall and Pifer was 20th. Neuman served as an alternate for the team. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Vaughn or Pifer on the podium this season. Vaughn placed fourth in 2004.
"Either one of them (Pifer and Vaughn) has a chance to be very high in the individual race," Wetmore explained. "My aspirations for Kenyon to run a careful, patient race. To pay attention to what he needs and to really just duplicate what he has already done for us four times this year."
Bradley Harkrader, Pete Janson, Richard Medina and Chris Pannone will round out the remaining spots on the Buffs' roster for the meet. All four have played a part in the team scoring this seaon. Pannone recorded his best finish at regionals by placing 14th overall and scored for the first time in his collegiate varsity career as the no. 5 racer . This will be the first NCAA meet for Medina and Pannone.
"Each of them has been in our top five at some point this season," Wetmore said. "We need two of them to have solid races for us on Monday."
Matt Tebo will serve as the alternate.
The men aren't feeling any pressure to repeat, Vaughn explained.
"Mark always says you can't give 110%, you can only give what you have, so the idea is to go in as calm of mind as possible," Vaughn said. "We have a few guys who haven't raced there before so it will be a challenge to keep a calm mind; but having older guys on the team will help. I know that Oregon and Iona have incredible teams and we are going to have to have a great day to come out on top in the end."
Barringer had recorded another great season for Colorado as the top female in every race. She won the pre-nationals in October, setting a course record of 19:49.3 on the course she will race on Monday. Barringer, who was the 2006 NCAA runner-up, has been the runner-up to Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego five times on the cross country course, but is looking to have a breakout performance at nationals.
"Jenny has run Sally seven or eight times and has never beaten her, so she will need the best race of her career," Wetmore said. "I'm not really familiar with the rest of the field, but one would be foolish to overlook 300 other runners."
Sara Vaughn and Erin Marston have been a very consistent no. 2 and 3 for Colorado. Vaughn earned her first all-region honor by taking sixth last weekend and her first all-conference honor with an eighth-place finish. Marston enjoyed the race of her life at the Big 12 Championship when she recorded a sixth-place finish. She was 13th at regionals this season to earn her second all-region honor.
"My aspiration for them is that they equal the races they have given us so far this year," Wetmore said.
Laura Thweatt will return to the Buffaloes line-up after serving as the alternate at regionals. She placed third for CU at the Rocky Mountain Shootout (sixth) and was the fourth Buff to cross the finish at pre-nats (74th) and Big 12s (18th).
"She was reliably our fourth runner and a predictable amount of time behind our third in the races she ran for us," Wetmore said. "But she has been compromised in the last couple of weeks. Honestly, we would like for her to come in and be a better fourth or fifth than we had last week."
Aislinn Ryan, Jen Hooper and Anna Chase fill out the roster for CU.
The women's team is in an unusual position heading into nationals with a 22nd-place ranking. The lowest CU has been ranked prior to nationals since Wetmore has taken the reigns is 13th which was in 1998 and also the same year CU did not win the Big 12 Championship. The Buffs place seventh that season at the NCAA meet.
"My aspiration for the team is that they run five or six or seven races equal to what we have already had this year in which case they will move up quite a few places in their ranking going in," Wetmore said.
Barringer also thinks the Buffs can make a big leap and surprise some people on Monday.
"When you are ranked really high, the pressure is on to beat it or match it," Barringer explained. "And being ranked 22nd, I think we have a lot more than that to give and I think it actually takes the pressure off and gives us the opportunity to say, ?we're going to leave it all on the race course and we have nothing to lose'. The whole team is going to be back together and in full force. I love impressing people and how impressive would it be to climb up a ladder 22 spots. That is what I am looking forward to."
The Buffs will leave for Terra Haute on Friday, Nov. 16.
2007 NCAA DIVISION I CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Monday, Nov. 19
Lavern Gibson Cross Country Course
Wabash Valley Family Sports Center, Terre Haute, Ind.
12:08 p.m. (ET) 8k Men's Race
12:58 p.m. (ET) 6k Women's Race
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