The Weber State University’s Women’s Cross Country Team has been picked to win the Big Sky Conference in a preseason coaches’ poll. The men’s team was picked to finish third.
Track Director Jim Blaisdell said he is excited about the upcoming year and thinks that both WSU teams have a chance to win the Big Sky Conference.
“There are outstanding men’s and women’s cross-country teams that are going to be battling for the conference titles,” Blaisdell said.
Blaisdell said that being picked near the top of the conference isn’t new for the Wildcats, but he said it’s good to get the recognition from other coaches.
“It’s kind of where we’ve been,” Blaisdell said. “Except for the last few years, we’ve usually been picked to finish first or second. The last title was in 2007, but we’ve been second or third since then. We always like to be picked up there. It’s where we want to be, it’s where we expect to be.”
Although the coaches and runners are pleased to be picked at the top of the conference, Blaisdell said that what really matters is being successful in their meets.
“It’s always good to be picked to win. You’ve got to do it. You have to go out on the field and get it done, but we appreciate the respect from the other coaches in the conference.”
The women’s team received 76 total points from the voting, and they tallied five first-place votes. Defending conference champion University of Montana received 66 points and two first-place votes. Northern Arizona University rounded out the top three with 65 points and two first-place votes.
WSU’s women’s team will have many strong runners from last year returning to the team. Amber Henry and Taylor Thornley, who finished seventh and ninth, respectively, last season will be back for another year, along with Sarah Callister. The Wildcats lost third-place finisher Natalie Haws.
Head Coach Paul Pilkington said that he expects the team to do well, and is excited to be picked as top of the conference.
The coaching staff said they are excited to see Callister come back and compete in the upcoming year. Pilkington said that she is ready to compete with the best.
“She showed . . . she is ready to step up and challenge the best in the land,” Pilkington said.
Blaisdell said that having Callister back will be a big boost for the team, since she is a strong runner. He said that, had Callister been able to run in the conference championships last season, the Wildcats could have beaten out UM.
Four-time defending champion NAU received all nine first-place votes and tallied 81 points on the men’s side. Montana State University was second with 67 points, followed by the Wildcats with 66 points.
The Wildcats will open their season this weekend when they compete in the Utah State Invitational in Logan. Blaisdell said he is excited to see how the team competes in the first tournament and get a feeling of where the runners are at.
“They are a very competitive group, and have their first meet this weekend,” Blaisdell said. “They’ll get an opportunity to find out where they’re at a little bit.”