Cross Country Squads Seek NCAA Bids at Friday’s Mountain Regional

photo courtesy of UW Athletics Department
By Staff

LARAMIE, Wyo. – The University of Wyoming men’s and women’s cross country teams run the most important race of the 2015 season Friday at the NCAA Mountain Regional Championship in Albuquerque, N.M. The Cowgirls compete over 6 kilometers at noon MT, while the Cowboys race over 10 kilometers at 1 p.m. on the UNM North Golf Course.

Hosted by the University of New Mexico, the Mountain Regional meet determines which teams and individuals will receive bids to the NCAA Championship meet. The top two teams from each of the nine regions in the country automatically qualify, while 13 at-large teams are selected based on meet results throughout the season. In the regions, the top two female and top two male finishers not on qualifying teams advance to the national meet as individual competitors. The Mountain Regional is comprised of 19 schools that are at least 3,000 feet in elevation. The men’s side of the Mountain Regional features five teams ranked in the nation’s top 30, while the women’s race has five ranked squads as well. Both of the No. 1 teams in the nation come from the Mountain Regional.

“We have a lot of ranked teams on both the men’s and women’s side in our region, but we want to improve on our showing from the conference meet” UW head coach Bryan Berryhill said. “We had a lot of younger women step up for us, so hopefully they can take that confidence and do it at the regional meet. The distance is the same so nothing changes for them. On the men’s side it is a little bit different going from 8 kilometers to 10 kilometers, but it doesn’t change a lot on how you approach it. Mentally you have to be a bit tougher, but with a lot of seniors I don’t think that distance will make a lot of difference for them.”

Wyoming History at the NCAA Mountain Regional

The Wyoming men’s highest team finish at the NCAA Mountain Regional meet is sixth place on three occasions, including the last time in 2010, while the lowest point total is 182 in 2008. Mark Korir owns the highest individual placing by a Cowboy, with third in 2006 and 2008. Last season the Cowboys placed 10th as a team with 243 points, while Amos Bowen placed sixth individually for All-Region accolades. The Cowgirls finished fifth last season to tie their highest team placing ever, and totaled 154 points in 2004 for their lowest mark ever. Holly Page has the best individual finish with a sixth-place showing last season. Page and Kerry White, who placed 21st, earned All-Region. Bowen and Page earned individual bids to the NCAA meet.

Last Time Out: Derner Paces Cowboys to Historic Showing at MW Meet

Senior Aaron Derner placed fourth individually to pace the University of Wyoming men’s cross country team to a historic fourth in the team standings at the 2015 Mountain West Championships in Reno, Nev., on Oct. 30. Derner’s finish garnered him an All-MW First Team accolade, while fourth in the team race with 89 points tied the squad’s best team finish and was four points away from UW’s lowest total in MW history.

“I thought the men ran great,” UW head coach Bryan Berryhill said. “You mentioned highest team finish and close to lowest point total, but those three teams that finished ahead of us are all nationally ranked. So to finish fourth behind them I’ll take that. I thought Aaron Derner had a phenomenal race and behind that to see Dylan Morin, Amos Bowen and Jonah Henry pack up together. To see Ricky as a middle distance guy on a tough course finish as our fifth says a lot about how much he cares about this team. Overall, I thought they showed they take pride in this program.”

Derner traversed the 8-kilometer course in 26:37 to pace the Cowboys for the third time this season. He was followed by fellow senior Amos Bowen in 27:30 for 18th, just four places away from all-conference accolades. Bowen was All-MW Second Team last season and was looking to become the first Cowboy to earn two-straight all-conference honors since 2010-11. Senior Dylan Morin finished one place and two seconds behind Bowen to edge out sophomore Jonah Henry who placed 20th in the same time as Morin. Redshirt freshman Ricky Faure rounded out UW’s scorers in 28:01 for 28th.

No. 26 Air Force won the men’s team title with 49 points, while No. 30 Colorado State was second at 53 and No. 16 Boise State third at 56. Wyoming, who last finished fourth at the 2010, edged out New Mexico, who received votes in the latest national poll.

On the women’s side, sophomore Kerry White placed 16th in 23:50 on the 6-kilometer course to help the Cowgirls place fifth with 129 points. No. 1 New Mexico won the women’s team race with 24 points, while No. 9 Boise State was second with 71 points. White was just two places away from a second-straight All-MW honor, while junior Megan Brunette finished in 23:59 for 19th. Sophomore Lauren Hamilton had her best race this season to place 22nd in 24:17, freshman Isabella Pape was 33rd in 24:56 and fellow freshman Kiah Leonard rounded out UW’s scorers in 25:13 for 43rd.

“I’m really proud of our women,” Berryhill said. “They fought hard on a tough course at elevation. I thought we had some sophomores and true freshmen that stepped up at 3-4-5 and I couldn’t be more proud. We’ve had a lot adversity this season, so for them to come out and fight and get fifth place in a deep conference is something I’m proud of. That is something we can build on.”

2015 MW Championships
Men’s Team Results
1. No. 26 Air Force – 49
2. No. 30 Colorado State – 53
3. No. 16 Boise State – 56
4. Wyoming – 89
5. RV New Mexico – 120
6. San Jose State – 159
7. Fresno State – 205
8. Utah State – 220

Wyoming Men Individual Results
4. Aaron Derner — 26:37
18. Amos Bowen — 27:30
19. Dylan Morin — 27:32
20. Jonah Henry — 27:32
28. Ricky Faure — 28:01
42. Alex Pawlak — 28:29
44. Michael Downey — 28:42
Jesse Gray – DNF

Women’s Team Results
1. No. 1 New Mexico – 24
2. No. 9 Boise State – 71
3. Air Force – 98
4. Colorado State – 106
5. Wyoming – 129
6. Utah State – 144
7. Nevada — 149
8. San Jose State – 218
9. San Diego State – 267
10. UNLV – 299
11. Fresno State – 312

Wyoming Women Individual Results
16. Kerry White — 23:50
19. Megan Brunette — 23:59
22. Lauren Hamilton — 24:17
33. Isabella Pape — 24:56
43. Kiah Leonard — 25:13
53. Catherine Cloetta — 25:38
55. Ali Walker — 25:43
56. Cassidy Meade – 25:48
66. Regan VanDepol – 26:28

Returning NCAA Qualifier

The Cowboys return all seven of their top runners from a season ago, but more importantly they welcome back someone with experience at the national meet. Senior Amos Bowen will look to qualify for the national meet for a second-straight season. He is the first Cowboy to return after competing at the NCAA Championships since Mark Korir went three-straight seasons from 2006-08. Bowen will also be looking to take down Korir’s school record in the 8,000 meters of 23:41. Bowen was two seconds shy at last season’s Washington Invite.

The Injury Bug

Wyoming has been a bit unlucky this season in terms of injuries. Seniors Audra DeStefano and Mike Seas are doubtful for the Cowgirls and Cowboys this weekend. Both have been diagnosed with mononucleosis. DeStefano was UW’s top runner in the first two meets this season, while Seas was in UW’s top eight. Junior Ali Walker is a race-day decision after suffering a leg injury at the Louisville Pre-Nationals. Sophomore Kerry White, the Cowgirls’ top returner this fall, has been battling a foot injury she suffered in the first meet of the season, but should be close to 100 percent for this meet.