The journey to rectify last year’s disappointing finish, which cost the men’s cross-country team a shot at the NCAA championship, begins with a meet at the George Kyte Invitational in Flagstaff on Sept. 7.
The team has finished No. 33, 35 and 32 in the last three years, and it hopes to make the jump into the tournament this year.
The road to the cross-country NCAA championship is one of the toughest roads in college athletics, as only about 10 percent of teams make the cut as one of the 31 teams in the tournament.
The 2013 roster is filled with many new faces, as 12 of the 16 men on the roster are freshmen.
One of those freshmen is highly touted recruit and Arizona native Bernie Montoya.
Montoya is not only considered one of the best in the state, he was also recognized nationally as one of the top 14 high school runners in the country when he participated in the invite-only New York Dream Mile in 2012.
Montoya set and broke several Arizona state records in his four years at Cibola High School in Yuma and also set the mark for the fastest mile in the 2013 season.
Coach Louie Quintana said he doesn’t expect more of Montoya than any other team member.
“I expect him to bring good energy, stay consistent and have a good positive attitude every day,” Quintana said. “Nothing different than I would ask of any of the newcomers that would come into the program.”
Quintana said it wouldn’t be fair to put all of the pressure on Montoya, but he’s excited to have him on the team.
Montoya’s work ethic will be a good fit with the “blue collar” group already in place on the team, he said.
Quintana said that he already has an idea of who his top five and top 10 members will be and that some of the freshmen might be in the running.
The team has 90 days until the NCAA championships and Quintana said that means 90 days to get better every day.
“Our motto is getting 1 percent better everyday, and if we’re pretty good already, we’re going to be awfully tough to beat,” he said.
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