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Women Stampede To First-Place Finish At Pre-Nationals, Men Place Second

Oct 15, 2021
Abby Nichols on her way to victory at NCAA Pre-Nationals.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The fifth-ranked University of Colorado women's cross country team flexed its muscle on Friday morning, winning the NCAA Pre-National Invitational by almost 100 points.
The Buffaloes recorded 54 points in the 6-kilometer garnet race at Apalachee Regional Park and the runner-up, 10th-rated Utah, recorded 149. CU's dominating performance was led by All-American Abby Nichols as she recorded her first cross country win in a CU uniform, crossing the finish line in 19 minutes, 46.4 seconds.
Not to be outdone, the men placed second in the men's garnet 8k race. Top-ranked Northern Arizona won the men's race (64) while the Buffs edged out ninth-ranked Arkansas. Both teams recorded 128 points but the Buffs took won the tiebreaker to place second while the Razorbacks placed third. No. 5 BYU finished fourth with 131 points.  
Individually Eduardo 'Lalo' Herrera led the men with a seventh-place performance, crossing in 23:01.4.
"The men's race was a little deeper than the women's," head coach Mark Wetmore said. "We were the highest-ranked team in the women's race so it's not a big surprise that we won. I think we ran a little better than people expected and we beat some other ranked teams by more than was expected."
Colorado's women turned in a dominating performance, especially in the second half of the race. The Buffaloes were in seventh at the 1,170-meter split, but at the second split (2,170) CU had moved up to second and was less than 50 points behind the host, No. 15 Florida State, 73-120.
The Buffs continued their patient drive to the front and in the following 800 meters completed that drive, basically flipping the score with FSU, 73-108. From that point on, Colorado would only increase its lead. At the 4K split, the lead was 65-137 over FSU. With 1,000-meters left to run, CU extend the advantage even more over the Seminoles (58-140).
While the Buffs were putting distance between themselves and FSU, Utah was chasing down FSU and finally caught the Seminoles at the end. CU recorded the win with 54 points, a 95-point advantage over Utah which recorded 149 points to beat FSU's 163 points, putting the host third overall.
Nichols, like the Buffs, was patiently moving up the pack during the race. She came in at 40th in the first split (1,170-meters) and jumped up 25 positions to 15th during the next 1k. By the halfway point, Nichols was sixth in the very close pack. The group would stay very close, but Nichols was able to put some distance between herself and the rest of the field at the end, besting the runner-up, Arkansas' Lauren Gregory, by a little more than a second. Nichols crossed the finish in 19:46.4 while Gregory finished in 19:47.7.
"Abby ran well," Wetmore said. "We thought she would be high in the race. We did not presume she might win it but she moved carefully throughout and closed better than her opponents."
Eight seconds behind Nichols at the finish was teammate Emily Covert, who ended up fifth overall in 19:54.6. She ran with Nichols in the lead pack in the final half of the race and was one of the five challenging for the win.
India Johnson was the third Buffalo to finish and placed ninth overall for a top-10 finish. She continually moved up during the race, starting from 60th at the first split. By the midpoint of the race, she was 26th and kept moving up to finish in 20:08.4.
The other two scorers for the Buffs placed in the top-25. Rachel McArthur was in the top-30 for the majority of the race and finished 16th overall in 20:13.5. Hannah Miniutti placed 23rd overall in 20:16.5.
When asked about any surprises in the races, Wetmore said there were lots of little surprises, but the biggest perhaps in the women's race was Miniutti.
"She had a real good run for us today," he said. "She looks like someone who will help us in the upcoming championship races."
The non-scorers for CU in the race also ran quite well. Madie Boreman placed 30th overall, finishing in 20:23.8. Kaitlyn Barthlell recorded a 49th-place finish, while Annie Hill placed 70th.
Colorado's men raced against 11 other USTFCCCA ranked teams and it was a battle as CU, BYU and Arkansas ran a close race against each other.
At the midway point of the 8k race, NAU had pulled away from the field, but the race for second was just getting started. Colorado was second with 113 points, while BYU was third (117) and Arkansas (121) was fourth. The standings were the same at the 5k split, but things were still tight (107-122-128).
A change came in the team standings with 1,000-meters left to race as the Razorbacks pulled in front of BYU and CU. UA recorded 131 points at that time and BYU and CU each had 132. The Buffaloes pulled ahead of BYU in the final stretch and even though they technically tied UA, CU took second, winning the tiebreaker 3-2.
Herrera was in the lead pack the entire race and never dropped out of the top-10 during any of the splits. He was third at the midway point and slipped to fourth at 5k. With just 2,000-meters remaining, Herrera was ninth overall, but he was able to regain his composure and moved up to seventh, which is where he stayed for the rest of the race, finishing in 23:01.4. He finished 0.9 seconds behind NAU's Drew Bosley, who clocked in at 23:00.5 for sixth-place.
"He (Eduardo) told me he maybe lost some focus in the middle of the race and he can't, shouldn't lose focus in the middle of a big race. Five weeks from now, 25-30 can go past you in that time. He has to pay attention a little more. Maybe set his alarm a little earlier," Wetmore said.
Colorado's next two runners came in back-to-back, finishing 23rd and 24th. Brendan Fraser finished in 23:26.0, while Austin Vancil recorded a time of 23:26.3. Vancil's performance stood out to Wetmore.
"He ran an aggressive, confident run today and it took him and us to the next level," Wetmore said.
The other two scorers for the Buffs finished close as well. Andrew Kent was 36th (23:37.9) while Charlie Sweeney placed 38th in 23:39.6.
Colorado's other runners in the race were Stephen Jones, Alec Hornecker and Ethan Powell. Jones just missed scoring for CU, placing 40th in 23:42.1. Hornecker finished 105th and Powell was 131st.
BYU's Connor Mantz won the men's race in 22:47.0, just in front of FSU's Adriaan Wildschutt (22:49.5).
Colorado had athletes race in the men's and women's open races as well. The men's open 8k race was first. Noah Hibbard, Paxton Smith, Hunter Appleton, Jonathan Horton and Josh Torres combined to place seventh in the field. Hibbard placed ninth and Smith was 13th. Appleton turned in a 26th-place finish while Horton placed 88th. Torres rounded out the score, crossing the finish in 95th.
"That was a good run for Noah," Wetmore said. "He needs to keep getting better to help the varsity. That was his best race for us probably ever. Paxton, who was quite under the weather a month ago at Oklahoma State looked better, well and varsity."
There were a pair of Buffaloes in the women's open race as well. Elizabeth Constien placed third overall, crossing the finish in 20:54.2. Also placing in the top-10 was Micaela DeGenero. She was seventh in 21:05.6.
"Liz is certainly a varsity runner for us," said Wetmore. "She was helping us at the end of last season. She has been a little behind this year. Today was a nice step for her, back into a varsity performance.
"Micaela lost a lot of the summer last summer with an injury that we just seem to have gotten a handle on three weeks ago. So, she's not in brilliant shape and was pretty rusty. But probably we can count on her being better soon."
UP NEXT: The Buffs will start postseason action with the Pac-12 Championships on October 29.
Tallahassee, Fla. (Apalachee Regional Park)
Garnet Women's Race (6k)
Team Results (Top 10 of 33)
1. Colorado 54; 2. Utah 149; 3. Florida State 163; 4. Ole Miss 165; 5. North Carolina 184; 6. Arkansas 243; 7. Northern Arizona 279; 8. Liberty 279; 9. Illinois; 10. Georgetown 317.
Individual Results (Top 10 Individuals of 246)
1. Abby Nichols, CU, 19:46.4; 2. Lauren Gregory, Arkansas, 19:47.7; 3. Lauren Ryan, FSU, 19:51.1; 4. Taryn O'Neill, NAU, 19:53.4; 5. Emily Covert, CU, 19:54.6; 6. Adelyn Ackley, Liberty, 20:05.0; 7. Calli Doan, Liberty, 20:05.0; 8. Krissy Gear, Arkansas, 20:08.0; 9. India Johnson, 20:08.4; 10. Joyce Kimeli, Auburn, 20:10.9.
Individual Results (CU Athletes Only)
16. Rachel McArthur, 20:13.5; 23. Hannah Miniutti, 20:16.5; 30. Madie Boreman, 20:23.8; 49. Kaitlyn Barthell, 20:39.9; 70; Annie Hill, 20:53.4.  
Garnett Men's Race (8k)
Team Results (Top 10 of 40)
1. Northern Arizona 64; *2. Colorado 128; 3. Arkansas 128; 4. BYU 131; 5. Notre Dame 203; 6. Texas 233; 7. Princeton 233; 8. Florida State 281; 9. Alabama 325; 10. Georgetown 331.
*CU earned the tiebreak win over Arkansas
Individual Results (Top 10 Individuals of 304)
1. Connor Mantz, BYU, 22:47.0; 2. Adriaan Wildschutt, FSU, 22:49.5; 3. Victor Kiprop, Alabama, 22:54.8; 4. Abdihamid Nur, NAU, 22:55.2; 5. Dylan Jacobs, UND, 22:55.5; 6. Drew Bosley, NAU, 23:00.5; 7. Eduardo Herrera, CU, 23:01.4; 8. Casey Clinger, BYU, 23:06.0; 9. Nico Young, NAU, 23:12.4; 10. Amon Kemboi, Arkansas, 23:13.1.
Individual Results (CU Athletes Only)
23. Brendan Fraser, 23:26.0; 24. Austin Vancil, 23:26.3; 36. Andrew Kent, 23:37.9; 38. Charlie Sweeney, 23:39.6; 40. Stephen Jones, 23:42.1; 105; Alex Hornecker, 24:17.3; 131. Ethan Powell, 24:27.1.
Men's Open Race (8k)
CU Individuals
9. Noah Hibbard, 24:26.0; 13. Paxton Smith, 24:32.9; 26. Hunter Appleton, 24:55.7; 88. Jonathan Horton, 25:54.7; 95. Josh Torres, 25:57.5
Unattached CU Runners
57. Shaw Powell, 25:31.3
Women's Open Race (6k)
CU Individuals
3. Elizabeth Constien, 20:54.2; 7. Micaela DeGenero, 21:05.6