The men’s and women’s cross-country teams embark on the goal of qualifying for the NCAA championships in Flagstaff at the George Kyte Invitational on Saturday.
On the way though, they may have different ways of getting better.
Women’s team: Young but ready to win
Upperclassmen will need to make big contributions throughout the season, but the team’s youth will provide lots of opportunity for the newcomers.
Shelby Houlihan and Macy Bricks, both sophomores, paced the team last year. Freshmen Kaitlin Kaluzny, Alexia Velarde and Tory Haberman have looked promising early on.
In order to stay successful down the stretch, however, the team will need to gain experience throughout the season.
Women’s coach Ryan Cole said the opening invitational is a great starting point.
“Well you want to start off the season on the right foot and the right foot is usually winning,” Cole said. “We want to go and really establish our tone for the season.”
The freshmen runners have yet to win at the collegiate level. A fresh motivation to succeed must be in the back of their minds as they compete Saturday morning.
“There’s no point in learning how to win if you don’t take advantage of those opportunities,” Cole said.
Men’s team: Looking for their niche
The men will be running the “pack” in effort to compete with some of the best runners in the nation, No. 17 NAU.
The word “pack” refers to runners who aren’t part of the team’s top four. The rest of the runners make up for a big part of the team’s score. Men’s coach Louie Quintana said he assumes NAU will use a similar strategy.
“It’ll be a good measuring stick for my ‘pack,’” Quintana said. “And my pack has a lot to prove this weekend.”
Alongside the three transfers, this meet is an opportune chance for some runners to find their stride within the team and impress their coaches.
“It’s really important that the guys five through ten, or eleven, really step it up to show where their place is, and come out and put themselves in a position to run in the top seven throughout the rest of the season,” redshirt senior Josh Walker said.
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