Ralphie may be the fastest Buffalo around, but the University of Colorado cross country teams were right on her tail Friday at the Pac-12 Championships in Oakland, California. The men’s team claimed their fourth consecutive conference championship with a dominant 30-point result, and the women finished third, only eight points behind second-place Stanford. The University of Oregon brought home the women’s conference title.
As usual, senior Blake Theroux led the charge for the Buffs. Theroux was fourth individually in the 8k race (23:42), followed by teammates Connor Winter, Ammar Moussa, Pierce Murphy and Ben Saarel in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively. Saarel rounded out the pack time with a 23:54 result.
With so many individual stars representing the Buffaloes, head coach Mark Wetmore leads with a team-oriented focus, handing that mentality down to his top runners.
“[Theroux] has bigger team aspirations than he does individual aspirations,” Wetmore said of Theroux after the race. “He’s always talking about the team first.”
Colorado’s herd-like finish bested second-place Oregon’s third runner, Matthew Melancon (24:08) and third-place Stanford’s second runner, Maxim Korolev (23:56).
The lady Buffs’ third-place finish came without junior Carrie Verdon, but incorporated recent freshman standouts Kaitlyn Benner (20:59) and Mackenzie Caldwell (21:22). Benner ran unattached at the Rocky Mountain Shootout in September and finished ninth. She took 52nd at Pre-Nationals in Terra Haute, her first official race for Colorado.
Sophomore Erin Clark led the women’s team with a 6k time of 20:19, taking fourth individually. Clark has consistently led the Buffs since the Rocky Mountain Shootout, where she won the women’s division with a time identical to Friday’s.
The men’s team led by 60 points (27 to Washington’s 87) after split two of the race. By split three, the top three teams were in their ultimate positions, with Oregon trailing Colorado by only nine points. The Buffs ended the race 27 points ahead of the competition.
Although Colorado’s women did not beat last year’s second-place finish, taking third today meant keeping three of six top-30 teams behind them. Heading into the race, Oregon was third overall, Colorado sat at seventh, and Stanford held the eleventh spot on the list. The Cardinal may have turned the rankings around in pulling second place, but Washington, Arizona State and UCLA (17th, 22nd and 19th respectively) couldn’t hunt down the Buffaloes.
Next up for Colorado is the NCAA regional meet in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Friday, Nov. 14. The NCAA Championship is set for Nov. 22. With the lady Buffs achieving consistent top four finishes and the men ranked number one nationally this fall, there is little doubt that the black and gold will be represented in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Wetmore understands that the No. 1 ranking means all eyes are on Colorado going into Nationals, but will not let it phase his seemingly indestructible squad.
“It feels great [to win conference], but I always put it in big perspective and know that we have more work to do in the next couple of weeks.”