After four months in the new conference, CU has its first Pac-12 banner to hang up.
Actually, make that two banners.
The men’s and women’s cross-country teams both took home league titles this season. On the women’s team, sophomore Shalaya Kipp finished fourth overall, one second ahead of teammate Emma Coburn, to help boost the ladies into a first-place finish.
“It was awesome for us to join the Pac-12 and come out and make a statement like this,” Kipp said. “It’s a good way to enter the Pac-12.”
Women’s cross-country head coach Mark Wetmore said he expected a strong run from Kipp, who earned All-Big 12 and All-American honors as a freshman.
Kipp’s time of 19:54 was only 22 seconds away from first place. Still, it proved fast enough to spark a team victory.
Even so, the win wasn’t an easy one. The humid weather of Litchfield Park, Ariz., forced Kipp and the CU runners to adjust quickly to the huge change in temperatures.
“We left [from Boulder] in 19 degree weather,” Kipp said. “And coming out it seemed like it was going to be hot, so we were dousing ourselves with water, trying to stay hydrated, staying in the shade, being smart about it.”
Coburn said that Kipp helped her through the championship race as they both held spots in the middle-of-the-pack. That’s a high praise coming from the decorated Coburn. The senior raced for the U.S. national team at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea back in late August.
“If I didn’t have a teammate on my shoulder like Shalaya as a reference, I think I would have been a lot more nervous,” Coburn said. “Having her there as a guiding light for me was helpful.”
The team’s ability to acclimate, work together and come away with a victory gives the Buffs athletic program life in an otherwise lifeless fall season. Both football and volleyball programs have yet to win a match in the Pac-12, and the women’s soccer team garnered their first and only conference win against Cal on Oct. 21.
Meanwhile, the ladies’ cross-country victory boosted the team’s rank from 16th place into the No. 3 spot in the NCAA. It serves as a light of hope for Buffs athletics in the face of strong Pac-12 teams.
“Well, we like to be the conference champs,” Wetmore said. “We like it a little better when we’re new to the conference. So this was a fun one.”
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Michael Kurmholtz at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.