BOISE, Idaho--The Boise State cross country teams are set to depart today for the NCAA National Championships, set for this Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Bronco women qualified for the championships automatically by virtue of their second-place finish at the West Regional last Friday in Seattle. The men finished fifth in that Regional, but were selected as an at-large team Saturday for the 31-team field.
Michael Vennard, a sophomore from Cheshire, England, paced the Broncos with his 17th place finish in Seattle, crossing the finish line with a time of 31:29.8 for All-West Region honors. The men, who rank their 8-kilometer race after the women were finished, were left with a sloppy track by the typical Seattle rain.
"We definitely got the shoes a little bit dirty. It was a little like English cross country. We see ourselves as a tough team and the tough conditions kind of suit us."
Vennard has been the leader of the Bronco men, who are making just their second appearance at the championships in school history. Many people are surprised at the growth of the Boise State team, which is dominated by first and second-year runners.
"The one comment that people have had with FloTrack and other things is how young the team is," Vennard said. Freshmen and sophomores--it's great."
Bronco coach Corey Ihmels has built the team to national Top 25 rankings for both men and women in just his third year at Boise State. This Saturday marks the first time both Bronco teams qualified for the championships in the same year. Ihmels coached at his alma mater, Iowa State, from 2007-2013, where he helped his teams win 2 Big 12 Conference Championships and earn 6 Top 10 finishes. Ihmels' reputation extended all the way to Vennard in Cheshire, so that when Ihmels came to Boise State, Vennard knew where he wanted to be.
Vennard credits Ihmels for his own development as well as that of the team: "Just by setting the bar high, you realize that he has good aspirations of you and you should have them of yourself."
Vennard said the team is aiming high: "We expect a lot from ourselves. The Top 10 is perfectly reasonable. We don't have to run perfectly; we just need to have a solid day and we'll be up there in the country."