The top-ranked CU men’s cross country team captured their third straight conference title at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships Halloween weekend, with five runners finishing in the top ten.
CU hosted the race for the first time since 2002, inviting runners to Coal Creek Golf Course in Louisville on Saturday.
The women’s team finished second behind the Arizona Wildcats.
University of Oregon runner Edward Cheserek took first place individually in the men’s race, running 24:36. Cheserek said that keeping up with top Colorado runners was part of his race strategy.
“I just stayed with the pack of guys until the very end,” Cheserek said. “That is when you can make your move to the last of the race.”
Junior Blake Theroux led the Colorado pack throughout the race, finishing third overall with a time of 24:47. Sophomore Connor Winter finished two seconds behind Theroux and freshman Ben Saarel was four seconds behind Winter.
The overall strategy for the men involved keeping calm and staying together.
“We always want to run a pack strategy,” Theroux said. “[Head Coach] Mark said keep in contact and stay relaxed.”
The team may have been affected by the hype of the Colorado crowd, Head Coach Mark Wetmore said.
“Early on, they were a little fast,” Wetmore said. “We had three or four guys right up front and I guess they decided to put the hammer down and see what happened. They know what they’re doing.”
The Buffs fed off each other’s speed and chased down the win.
“I was really fired up about how gutsy they were early on,” Theroux said. “Momentum and confidence in having your guys run is everything.”
Wetmore gave the women’s team a more individual strategy.
“We basically told them to pay attention to your race and how your body feels,” he said. “Don’t key off of any teammate and don’t key off of any opponent.”
The women’s title went to Arizona, despite a first place finish by Stanford’s Aisling Cuffe, who finished with a time of 21:04. The leading pack also contained runners from Colorado and Oregon. The three-way battle between the Ducks, Buffs and Wildcats drew into the final stretch of the race, where Colorado grabbed two spots in the top 10. Senior Shalaya Kipp placed eighth with a time of 21:33, and sophomore Carrie Verdon finished tenth at 21:42. Freshmen Erin Clark and Melanie Nun also raced well for the Buffs, placing 13th and 14th overall.
Kipp’s slow start this season can be attributed to coming off of the World Championships last spring for steeplechase.
“When she made the world team in Moscow, we knew we were taking a little hit on the cross country season,” Wetmore said. “But she’s getting better every week.”
Kipp, who has some of the fastest times on the women’s team this season, will undoubtedly play a key role in the Buffs’ success going into the NCAA Regional and National meets.
Looking toward their next race, the NCAA Regional meet Nov. 15, and beyond, the Buffs are looking forward to continuing their success in the face of stiff competition, Wetmore said. One team that looms as a threat is Oklahoma State, ranked No. 1 before Colorado jumped to the top of the polls.
“On paper, they’re better,” Wetmore said. “[CU] or Northern Arizona are second. I think those three teams are a little bit ahead of everybody else.”
For Colorado’s program, Wetmore said Saturday’s conference performance was a testament to hard work and cooperation.
“I had one hundred things to be nervous about,” Wetmore said. “This was a very logistically well-ran event and it’ll set the paragon for conference championships for a long time.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Jordyn Siemens at email@example.com.