Reno Readies For Mountain West Conference Cross Country Championships

Mountain West cross country teams will converge on Reno for the conference championships Friday.

What has been a lopsided affair in the Mountain West has suddenly got interesting.

The New Mexico women have won seven consecutive cross country conference titles, while the New Mexico men have won six straight.  And, while the Lobo women are still the big favorite Friday, Boise State's team has been surging and at least figures to close the gap between New Mexico and the rest of the conference.  On the men's side, instead of one nationally-ranked team from the conference, there are now three in the nation's Top 30:  #16 Boise State, #26 Air Force and #30 Colorado State, and New Mexico is among the teams also receiving votes.

The annual conference championships stop in Reno, Nevada Friday for this year's edition, where 11 schools will battle at the Montrêux Golf and Country Club.  The starting line is at 5,500 elevation and features several hills, changes of terrain and loops.  Because of frost, the starting time has been delayed this morning.  The men will start at 11:30 a.m., with the women beginning at 12:15.  Both times are Mountain Time.

(BroncoCountry video by Rod Couch)

(BroncoCountry video by Rod Couch)

Although Boise State has high goals for Regionals as well as Nationals, Ihmels views the conference championship as an important part of the Broncos' growth.

On the women's side, freshman Allie Ostrander will be going for an individual title, trying to extend the Bronco streak to three years in a row.  Former Boise State great Emma Bates won the title in each of the last two seasons.  From the get-go, Ostrander has established herself as a force to be reckoned with this season after first winning the World Mountain Running Championship in Scotland in September, then winning the Wisconsin Invitational with a course record time of 19:19.5.

Fellow freshman Brenna Peloquin has been outstanding lately, finishing 27th at the Wisconsin Invitational two weeks ago with a time of 20:17.4.  Boise State coach Corey Ihmels is hoping to bring along his other runners closer to Ostrander and Peloquin.

Hannah Everson of Air Force is another strong contender for the women's title.  Everson was second at the Pre-Nationals with a time of 20:01.2.  Then you have the strong contingent of New Mexico runners:  seniors Courtney Frerichs (4th at the Wisconsin Invitational with a time of 19:39.3) and Molly Renfer (10th, 19:55.5), junior Rhona Auckland (5th, 19:41.1) and sophomore Alice Wright (7th, 19:43.8).

 1 4 Courtney Frerichs SR 19:39.3 2 5 Rhona Auckland JR 19:41.1 3 6 Calli Thackery SR 19:42.7 4 7 Alice Wright SO 19:43.8 5 10 Molly Renfer SR 19:55.5

Patrick Corona of Air Force figures to be one of the top finishers on the men's side--he was the top Mountain West finisher at the Pre-Nationals (23:31.1).  Jefferson Abbey (23.35) and Jerrell Mock (23:37.2) will give Corona a run for his money.    

Here is a look at each of the teams competing and their most recent performances:

Air Force:

The Air Force men are ranked 26th in the latest Coaches' Poll.

The Falcon men's and women's teams both placed eighth at Pre-Nationals.  Senior Hannah Everson (20:01.2) finished second individually for the Air Force women in the six-kilometer race, while senior Patrick Corona was 12th (23:31.1) and junior Kyle Eller finished 22nd (23:41) in the 8k for the men.

Boise State:

The Bronco women are ranked ninth in the nation, while the Boise State men are 16th.  Allie Ostrander won the Wisconsin Invitational with a time of 19:19.5, beating the course record by 12 seconds and becoming just the fourth freshman in the history of the event to win the title.  Brenna Peloquin was 27th (20:17.4) while Minttu Hukka was third with a time of 20:28.6.  The Bronco men were 11th in Wisconsin, with sophomores Michael Vennard 17th (23:51.8), Louis McAfee 37th (24:05.8) and Rhys Park 85th (24:22.8).

Colorado State:

The Ram men are ranked 30th in the nation in this week's Coaches' Poll.

At the Pre-Nationals, the men placed ninth while the women were 16th.  Jefferson Abbey (16th with a time of 23:35) and Jerrell Mock (17th, 23:37.2) led the CSU men, while freshman Ali Kallner finished 70th (20:57.7) to top the women.

CSU participated at the Roy Griak Invitational, where the Ram men took fourth place and the women finished sixth.  Abbey and Mock were 1-2 individually with times of 24:52 and 24:56, respectively.  Janelle Lincks placed 21st (22:12) to lead the women while Kallner was 27th with a time of 22:16.

Fresno State:

The Bulldog men placed sixth at the Santa Clara Invite.  Junior Cooper Gill finished 18th individually with an 8k time of 24:23.3, followed by Matt Kwiatkowski, who was 35th with a time of 24:37.7.  Fresno State did not have enough runners to qualify for a team score, but Cristal Rivera led the Bulldog women with a 6k time of 21:51.0.

Nevada:

Nevada has not raced competitively as a team in nearly a month, when the Wolf Pack Women took third place at the Sacramento Capital Cross Challenge on October 3.  Emily Myers came in ninth with a time of 17:09 while Caitlin Devitt-Payne was 13th (17:21).  Nevada does not field a men's team.   

New Mexico:

The Lobo women are ranked #1 in the nation in this week's Coaches' Poll.  The men are among those also receiving votes.

The New Mexico women's cross country team dominated the seventh-annual Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, placing five runners in the top 10 en route to setting a meet record with a 32-point team score.  The Lobo men were 23rd in the race.  Individually, Dan Milechman was 59th for the men (24:14.8) while Elmar Engholm finished 84th (24:22.4).

San Diego State:

The Aztec women took second place at the Highlander Invitational.  Elaine Ribeiro was third individually to lead SDSU with a 5k time of 17:31.70.    San Diego State does not field a men's team.

San Jose State:

The Spartan men won the Santa Clara Invitational, finishing ahead of Fresno State as well as California.  Ben Branagh led the way with a third-place finish of 24:03.9, followed by Josue Gonzalez (24:06.1) in fourth and Jose Piña (24:06.2) in fifth.  The San Jose State women finished second at the same event, led by Jennifer Beckingham (20:17.6).

UNLV:

The Rebel women finished eighth at the Santa Clara Invitational with Spencer Moore boasting UNLV's top individual time of 20:55.5 for 13th place.  UNLV does not have a men's team.

Utah State:

The Aggie women finished 27th at the Pre-Nationals.  Freshman Kashley Carter was 24th individually with a time of 20:30.5.  The USU men were 15th, paced by juniors Colby Wilson (35th with a time of 24:48.8) and Ben Johnston (40th, 24:50.4).

Utah State also competed at the Roy Griak Invitational, where Carter (20th, 22:10.5) helped the Aggie women place 10th.  Johnston (68th individually, 26:18.9) helped the USU men place 14th.

Wyoming:

The Wyoming men finished 34th at the Pre-Nationals, with Aaron Derner (24:24) coming in #119 to lead the Cowboy men.  The Wyoming women were 38th at the same meet, paced by Kerry White, who was 54th with a time of 20:49.  


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