Buffaloes Headed To NCAA Cross Country Championships Saturday
BOULDER — For the 13th consecutive year, the University of Colorado is sending its third-ranked women and No. 5 men's teams to the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
For the first time in championships history, the event will take place in the state of Florida as Florida State will host the meet at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee, Fla.
"It's a good course," head coach Mark Wetmore said. "It's not entirely flat. It has some character to it. It disappears into the woods for a nerve-wracking few minutes per loop. The women run two loops and the men run three or four, but it is fair."
This is the 29th time in 30 years the CU women have qualified for the championship, while the men have advanced to the championship in each of the last 30 years.
The Colorado women have had a very good season, earning three impressive wins. One of those was a dominating performance at the Pac-12 Championship where they recorded 24 points, the fifth-lowest score in conference history, to soundly defeat the runner-up, Utah, which scored 52 points. The third-place finisher, Oregon, had 92 points. The Buffaloes also recorded a 54-149 win at NCAA Pre-Nationals over Utah in Tallahassee, Fla, the site of NCAAs, and won the Cowboy Jamboree, 30-33, over Oklahoma State.
Individually the Buffaloes have had some great solo performances as well. Abby Nichols recorded back-to-back wins at pre-nationals and Pac-12s. Her win at conference earned her the Pac-12 Female Athlete of the Year honor and she was also awarded the USTFCCCA Co-Athlete of the Week honor. Her conference victory was 11 seconds faster than her teammate, Emily Covert, who finished as the runner-up. The duo has been a very strong 1-2 punch for the Buffs as Covert led CU in the two races Nichols did not.
Outside of those two, the depth continues. India Johnson has been a solid No. 3 racer. She recorded a top-10 finish in her first three varsity meets for the Buffs before a 14th-place finish at regionals. Then there are a plethora of individuals who can step in and score. Rachel McArthur and Hannah Miniutti have scored as the No. 4 and No. 5 racers, respectively, but Kaitlyn Barthell, Madie Boreman, Elizabeth Constien and Micaela DeGenero all have the abilities to help as well.
"This is a very good women's team, amongst the best we've ever had here," Wetmore said. "They are probably in the top three or four of the country. NC State is very good, New Mexico is very good, BYU is very good and there are always sleeper teams. Our goal at the beginning of the year is to get on the team with both teams, and that is in reach."
The men have also had a season to remember. They started the season with a third-place finish at the Cowboy Jamboree and then placed second at pre-nationals behind Northern Arizona. Each week the Buffaloes saw improvement in the national rankings as well and their highest ranking this season, second, came after winning the Pac-12 Championship on October 29. It was the eighth time since 2011 and the second time in three years that Colorado won the conference title. The Buffs defeated Stanford, 39-52, and placed all five of their scores in the top 12.
Eduardo Herrera has been the top individual runner for CU for the second straight season. He has placed no higher than seventh at any race this season. Herrera was the runner-up at the Wyoming Invitational, seventh at the Cowboy Jamboree, third at the Pac-12 Championship and fifth at regionals.
Behind Herrera, the Buffaloes have a stable of talented racers, some transfers and some returners from last year's team. Austin Vancil is one of the returners who has been improving in just about every race, scoring as either the No. 2 or 3 runner. Alec Hornecker and Ethan Powell have also been consistent and have the talent to help the squad. Stephen Jones, while not a new transfer as he redshirted the 2020 season with the Buffs, was 15th at regionals as Colorado's No. 2.
There are three transfers who came in this fall and have made an immediate impact, Brendan Fraser, Andrew Kent and Charlie Sweeney. Each has scored for the Buffs in at least two meets.
"Northern Arizona is very good," Wetmore said about the competition. "BYU beat them last weekend, I'm not sure how hard everyone was trying [at regionals]. Notre Dame, which was second last year, is coming on strong. Oklahoma State is very good. Really there are five or six very, very good teams. We could be very high up in it, but if we stumble a little bit, we could be fifth or sixth."
The women's 6-kilometer race will start at 8:20 a.m. MST with the men's 10k race following at 9:10 a.m. An awards ceremony will take place following the men's race. ESPNU will broadcast the event live and without commercial interruption of the races, starting at 8 a.m. The two-hour event will also be available through the ESPN App. The championships telecast, produced by the USTFCCCA in coordination with TrackTown Productions, will be hosted by SportsCenter's John Anderson with Carrie Tollefson and Bill Spaulding providing analysis and play-by-play.
The post-championships awards ceremony will also be streamed live on ESPN3 and through the ESPN App on mobile and connected devices.
Live results will be available at NCAA.com or by clicking this link.
2021 NCAA DIVISION I CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday, November 20
Tallahassee, Fla. (Apalachee Regional Park)
8:20 a.m. (MT) - Women's 6k Race
9:20 a.m. (MT) - Men's 10k Race
Stream: ESPN App