Buffaloes Seek NCAA Qualifier At Mountain Regionals
BOULDER — The University of Colorado cross country program hopes to punch its tickets to the NCAA Championships as they head down to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the NCAA Mountain Regional Championship Friday.
The women's 6k race will begin at 11 a.m. MT. on Friday, while the men will jump up to the 10k for the first time this season at noon MT Friday. Both the men's and women's races will take place at the UNM North Golf Course in Albuquerque, seeking a top-two finish for an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Championships.
The women's team, fresh off a Pac-12 Championship title, come into the weekend ranked No.8 in the NCAA and fourth in the region. Host school New Mexico is first and has a No. 2 NCAA ranking, Northern Arizona is second, BYU is third. Utah, who CU edged in a tie-breaker for the Pac-12 title, rounds out the top five at fifth. All five programs are ranked in the top ten nationally.
The women will look to build off their success at the Pac-12 Championships where Bailey Hertenstein took home the title with Emily Covert close behind in third. Ella Baran had an outstanding race, finishing seventh overall, while Kaitlyn Barthell was 16th and Gabrielle Orie was 42nd. Alisa Meraz-Fishbein and Whitney Valenti rounded out the top seven in 54th and 64th, respectfully.
All of the top women's teams in the region met at the Nuttycombe Invitational where New Mexico lost in a tiebreaker to NC State by one runner position. Hertenstein was the second Mountain Regional woman to cross in fifth at that race behind NAU's Elise Stearns. The team finished fifth at Nuttycombe amongst regional teams, but has had a solid second half of the season and could push for a top spot. Only 62 positions separated the Buffaloes from NAU in third, and with a smaller field, the Buffs have proven they are a force to deal with.
After finishing second at the Pac-12 Championships, the Colorado men are ranked No.9 in the NCAA and are ranked fourth in the Mountain region behind BYU, Northern Arizona and Air Force, respectfully. The Buffaloes were led by Andrew Kent at Pac-12s before a herd of Buffs crossed with six runners in the top 20.
The men's race is stacked as well, with BYU, NAU and Air Force finishing second through fourth at the Nuttycombe behind only No.1 Stanford. BYU, who scored 89 points in Wisconsin, had a strong pack presence like the Buffs did at the conference championships, running all five runners between 15th and 21st. NAU on the other hand had a pair of runners in the top five before they dropped off, and Air Force had a runner in 10th before everyone else crossed 29th to 40th. The Buffaloes are coming off one of their best pack running performances and can hang with the Cougars and Falcons to break up the scoring and slide into a top-two position.
The CU men have the longest active NCAA Championships appearances at 31 straight since 1992 with the women having made the last 30 of 31 years. If the teams do not finish in the top two, the NCAA selection show will be Saturday at 3 p.m. where the teams will seek one of the 13 at-large bids.