ALBUQUERQUE — The University of Colorado cross country program picked up a pair of top-five finishes and six All-Regional selections here Friday morning at the 2022 NCAA Cross Country Mountain Regional Championships.
The men came into the race ranked ninth in the NCAA and fourth in the region, bettering that position by one with a third-place finish and upset of No.5-ranked Air Force. The men finished with 97 points, trailing only No.3 NAU with 43 points and No.2 BYU with 54 points.
“Well, I wouldn’t call it an upset because everybody’s running in a big pack looking around, trying to calculate how easily they can advance,” said head coach Mark Wetmore. “So a position or two in our part or their part doesn’t really mean anybody beat anybody. The front four or five teams are just trying to get through to next week as carefully as possible.”
Austin Vancil led the way for CU, remaining among the top runners for the majority of the race. Vancil finish seventh overall in 28:08.9, just a second behind fourth as the top nine were separated by just eight seconds. Andrew Kent, Seth Hirsch and Brendan Fraser all moved up a considerable amount in the race to give CU the finish. Kent was in 56th at the 1600-meter mark, then in the next two miles moved up 39 positions to fifth. He dropped back to 20th with a mile remaining and caught eight runners to finish 12th in 28:17.0. Right behind him, Hirsch had a progressive race, starting at 54th and moving up 20 spots at the halfway mark and another 10 before the last mile where he finished 19th overall in 28:19.2. Fraser finished 21st to round out the All-Regional selections for the CU men with a time of 28:23.3.
Also for Colorado, Hunter Appleton and James Overberg finished a position apart with Appleton running 28:47.6 for 38th and Overberg running 28:55.3 for 39th. Noah Hibbard finished out the seven runners with a 60th-place finish in 29:38.4.
The Buffaloes were without Charlie Sweeney today who will join the seven if the Buffs secure an at-large bid the to the NCAA Championships.
“The NCAA has a points system for everybody all season long,” said Wetmore. “Teams that don’t finish in the top two of the nine regions go into that points system. It’s a little confusing when they say there will be a selection show the next day because there isn’t really selections it’s just a calculation of the points and our men are in. We’ll add Chuck, he’s completely healthy. We were just letting some other guys run that we wanted to take a look at but Chuck will go in next week.”
The women came into the race eighth in the NCAA and finished fifth overall with 135 points, trailing No.2 New Mexico with 56, No.9 Utah and No.4 NAU who both finished with 103 points and No.20 CSU who pushed hard today for 121 points to try and guarantee an NCAA Championship bid.
“The women’s race was not great,” said Wetmore. “Our normal leaders didn’t have good days. Emily has been nursing the lower leg problem that we knew was not perfect. We have eight days to get it a lot better.”
Pac-12 Champion Bailey Hertenstein led the charge for the Buffaloes, starting out in 17th and remaining around 13th place before she finished 11th in 20:21.1. Ella Baran finished as an All-Regional selection, coming up from 33rd in the first third of the race to finish 15th overall in 20:32.6, including passing eight runners in the final kilometer. Kaitlyn Barthell was just off of the All-Regional placing with a 29th place finish in 20:51.8, followed by Emily Covert in 37th in 20:59.1. Covert started out the race eighth in the first third, then fell to 26th with a mile remaining before finishing in her final position.
Gabrielle Orie was the final scorer for the Buffaloes, finishing 44th in 21:05.1. Whitney Valenti finished 82nd for the Buffs in 22 minutes flat, while Alisa Meraz-Fishbein finished just behind her in 86th at 22:04.6
“If Bailey feels ready to mix it up up front as she did two weeks ago, if we get Emily’s leg well, we can outrun our ranking,” said Wetmore. “We will probably drop in the rankings a little bit from eight. I think we’re eight and we’ll drop from that. But we can beat it if we patch together the next seven days correctly.”
Both teams of Buffaloes are expected to be one of the first at-large selections tomorrow during the NCAA Cross Country Championship Selection Show at 3 p.m. MT.
CU WOMEN: 11. Bailey Hertenstein, 20:21.1; 15. Ella Baran, 20:32.6; 29. Kaitlyn Barthell, 20:51.8; 37. Emily Covert 20:59.1; 44. Gabrielle Orie, 21:05.1; 82. Whitney Valenti, 22:00.0; 86. Alisa Meraz-Fishbein, 22:04.6
WOMEN’S SCORES: 1. New Mexico 56; 2. Utah 103; 3. NAU 103; 4. CSU. 121; 5. Colorado 135; 6. BYU 144; 7. Utah Valley 164; 8. Utah State 167; 9. Air Force 201; 10. Wyoming 204; 11. Weber State 363; 12. Montana State 367; 13. Southern Utah 378; 14. Nevada 403; 15. New Mexico State 409; 16. Northern Colorado 513; 17. Idaho State 514; 18. Texas Tech 544; 10. Montana 553; DNP. UTEP
MEN’S TOP-10: 1. Nico Young (NAU) 28:01.8; 2. Drew Bosley (NAU) 28:01.9; 3. Duncan Hamilton (MSU) 28:06.9; 4. Matthew Richtman (MSU) 28:07.6; 5. Brandon Garnica (BYU) 28:08.1; 6. Casey Clinger (BYU) 28:08.4; 7. Austin Vancil (COLO) 28:08.9; 8. Joey Nokes (BYU) 28:09.2; 9. Ryan Raff (NAU) 28:09.7; 10. Ryan Johnson (AF) 28:11.0
OTHER CU MEN: 12. Andrew Kent (COLO) 28:17.0; 19. Seth Hirsch (COLO) 28:19.2; 21. Brendan Fraser (COLO) 28:23.3; 38. Hunter Appleton (COLO) 28:47.6; 39. James Overberg (COLO) 28:55.3; 60. Noah Hibbard (COLO) 29:38.4
MEN’S SCORES: 1. NAU 43; 2. BYU 54; 3. Colorado 97; 4. Air Force 104; 5. Montana State 123; 6. CSU 132; 7. Utah State 198; 8. Wyoming 226; 9. New Mexico 227; 10. Utah Valley 269; 11. Southern Utah 337; 12. Nevada 341; 13. UTEP 352; 14. Weber State 357; 15. Texas Tech 437; 16. Montana 451; 17. Idaho State 523; DNP. New Mexico State