The Boise State cross country teams are preparing to make a strong showing at the Mountain West championships this Friday in Reno, Nevada. The Bronco women are currently ranked ninth in the nation, and will be facing #1 New Mexico for the second time this season. The Broncos and Lobos both ran in the prestigious Wisconsin Invitational on October 16, with New Mexico winning and Boise State placing sixth.
True freshman Allie Ostrander used a tremendous kick in the final 800 meters to win individually, covering the six-kilometer distance in 19:19.5, beating the course record by 12 seconds. Another freshman, Brenna Peloquin, also ran an outstanding race, finishing 27th after crossing the line in 20:17.4.
Whereas Ostrander won the individual title in Wisconsin, New Mexico used incredible depth to win the team title. Lobo runners finished fourth (senior Courtney Frerichs with a time of 19:39.3), fifth (junior Rhona Auckland, 19:41.1), sixth (senior Calli Thackery, 19:42.7), seventh (sophomore Alice Wright, 19:43.8) and 10th (senior Molly Renfer, 19:55.5) individually.
"I think we need to close that gap from 2 to 5 [in his lineup]," Bronco coach Corey Ihmels said. "If we can do that, I think we're going to be in really good shape as we get to the postseason."
Among the Broncos that can do that are Minttu Hukka, a Finland native who transferred to Boise State from Lamar. Hukka won the Southland Conference cross country championship last fall. Anna Holdiman, who finished 83rd in Wisconsin with a time of 20:50.5, and Alexis Fuller (119th at 21:10.0) are two more Broncos Ihmels is counting on to do well Friday.
"We're up against a formidable challenge this week with New Mexico, the #1 team in the nation, and I think we've got to concentrate on ourselves a little bit--just worry about that team speed a little bit and let the results fall where they may."
Having the #1-ranked team in your conference is somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, Ihmels can use that as motivation, showing his group what a team in the Mountain West Conference can accomplish and using the Lobos' success to inspire them and what they can become. On the other hand, though, it makes it tough to win a conference championship.
Ihmels views the challenge presented by the Lobos as a positive--"It makes you hungry; it motivates you to have them in your conference. "I think it's a good thing anytime we get to the conference and we know we're going to be up against some of the best teams in the country. Obviously, we've got to be ready. That's the great thing about our conference right now. You've got to be ready to go at a high level"
"They're a great team and they're coached very well," Ihmels said of New Mexico. "They've got the right mix. I think we're doing the same thing--we're starting to assemble a group that I think a couple years down the line could go after that title as well.
Ihmels sees the Mountain West championship as a part of the process in Boise State's growth as a cross country power. "We've got to get a lot better. Even if we don't come out on top on the women's side, I want to close that gap. I want our team to run a little bit closer to each other."
According to Ihmels, the contest Friday on the men's side is "going to be a dogfight". Ihmels sees the Broncos, New Mexico, Air Force and Colorado State battling it out for the conference crown, believing it could come down to a few points separating the teams.
About his squad, Ihmels said "They're a good group--they're just starting to come together. They're continuing to get better and better. They're a little overshadowed by the women, but I think they're steady, and I think they are a Top 20 team."
Michael Vennard, a sophomore from Cheshire, England, has led the Broncos throughout the fall and was the top finisher in Wisconsin. Vennard finished the 8-kilometer race in 17th place with a time of 23:51.8. Fellow sophomore Louie McAfee finished 37th in 24:05.8, while Rhys Park landed a finish in the Top 100 after clocking 24:22.8 for 85th. Addison Dehaven (24:31.8) and Chandler Austin (24:37.1) rounded out the scoring for the Broncos.
Ihmels believes the Bronco men have put themselves in great position. "We've beaten some teams that we needed to beat," he said. "Now we just have to perform up to our abilities. And if we do that, then we're at the starting line at Nationals."
Action gets underway Friday at the Montrêux Golf and Country Club in Reno with the men's 8-kilometer race at 11 a.m. Mountain time. The women's competition will follow at approximately 11:45 a.m. Mountain.
You can follow the action live on the Mountain West cross country championship page.