Buffaloes Excited For 'Normal' Fall Cross Country Season
BOULDER — Less than six months after racing at the 2020 NCAA Cross Country Championships March 15, 2021, in Stillwater, Okla., the University of Colorado will start the 2021 campaign.
Both the men's and women's teams were not satisfied with their finishes during the 2020 season and are excited for the opportunity to get going and race in a more typical atmosphere. The women were seventh at NCAAs, while the men were 14th; both placed second at the Pac-12 Championships on March 5, 2021.
Training for the upcoming season got underway in August and now with the first meet looming, it is fair to say there is a "normal" feeling in the air.
The opening race of the campaign will be the Wyoming Invitational in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Friday, September 3. It's been a race the Buffs have opened their season with the last few years (except for 2020) as it is a great way to gauge where everyone's fitness is and what work needs to be done in the next eight weeks before nationals.
A new meet this year is the addition of the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., September 18. The Cowboy Jamboree is one of the longest-running meets in the country and usually attracts some quality opponents, making it a good early test for CU. One month later the Buffs will head to Tallahassee, Fla., for the NCAA Pre-National Invitational on October 15. Florida State will host the meet as the Seminoles will host the NCAA Championship for the first time in November.
Pre-Nationals is the final test before the postseason starts. Utah is the host of the Pac-12 Championship on October 29, in Salt Lake City and then BYU will host the NCAA Mountain Region Championship two weeks later on November 12. The NCAA Championship will take place on November 20, in Tallahassee.
The schedule is about as normal as CU can get. But there is something unusual when it comes to the rosters. Due to the transfer portal, this year there are many new faces on the team which include many graduate transfers and freshmen that could help both teams.
'We will have three male and two female experienced people joining our squads that could help our varsities immediately," head coach Mark Wetmore said at CU's annual fall sports media day. "Then also, we've had a successful year with young people, with true freshmen. Most noticeably on the men's side where we have 10, usually we have four. So there are a lot of new faces."
Those new faces join an already talented group of runners as the Buffs did not lose a single scorer or letterwinner from the 2020 season.
On the men's side, there are two returning All-Americans in Eduardo Herrera and Alec Hornecker. Herrera also won the 2020 Pac-12 men's individual crown and has the chance to become the first CU male to win back-to-back individual titles since Jorge Torres won three straight Big 12 titles (2000-02). In addition to his win at conference, Herrera recorded a runner-up finish at the FSU Winter Classic and a third-place finish at the Battle Born Collegiate Challenge. Hornecker was the No. 2 scorer for CU at the first three meets of the 2020 season, finishing eighth, seventh and 11th, respectively, before leading the Buffs at NCAAs. His 11th-place finish came at conference.
CU's other returning scorers are Hunter Appleton, Jace Ascebrenner, Jake Derouin, Ethan Powell, Paxton Smith and Austin Vancil, who, along with Hornecker, was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team.
The women return an All-American in Abby Nichols who placed 18th at the 2020 Championship. She led the Buffs at nationals and at the Battle Born Collegiate Challenge. Nichols also earned All-Pac-12 Second Team honors with an eighth-place finish, three spots behind teammate Rachel McArthur who was fifth overall to earn first team all-conference honors. McArthur was the team's leader in two races – the other being the season opener, the FSU Winter Classic, where she was also fifth.
Colorado's other returning scorers are Madie Boreman, Elizabeth Constien, Emily Covert and Micaela DeGenero as all four scored in at least one of the four varsity meets. Boreman and DeGenero both joined Nichols on the All-Pac-12 Second Team.
Just as the Buffs have gotten better with experience, transfers and newcomers, it is to be expected their opponents have gotten better as well.
The Pac-12 is always one of the best conferences, if not the best conference, in the country for distance running. This year should prove no different with eight programs, four men's and four women's, ranked in the USTFCCCA preseason poll. On the women's side, Stanford leads the league at third and Colorado is eighth. Washington is 10th and Oregon State comes in at 22nd. The men are led by Oregon at fourth, but Stanford is right behind at fifth. The Buffs are 12th, one position in front of Washington (13th).