For the University of Colorado cross country teams, Friday's NCAA Mountain Regional is all about remaining in cruise control.
The Buffaloes, particularly the men's team, will be chasing history a week from now at the NCAA finals. Only a regional disaster of epic proportions — for instance, as coach Mark Wetmore described, "everybody getting food poisoning" — will keep CU out of the team competition next week in Louisville, Ky.
Nevertheless, Friday's competition in Albuquerque, N.M., still represents the Buffs' final tuneup before next week's finale. With CU's team bids all but intact for the NCAA championships, striking a comfortable balance between keeping the intensity high while not overextending will be the primary goal at regionals.
"Many teams go in saying, 'We have to have a good day or we're done,' " Wetmore said. "We're going there saying, 'We have to have a really bad day to be done.' The negative side to that is the team often underestimates the effort of the regionals.
"We've often left the regionals saying, 'Wow, we had to run harder than we thought.' We've talked about that this week. They've been warned. Some of the veteran guys who have had that experience, they're warning each other. It's less of a problem for the women, who go 6 kilometers, than the men, who move now from 8 to 10 kilometers. Ten kilometers is a long, hard race, no matter how careful you're running it."
Coming off a sweep of the Pac-12 championships two weeks ago, the CU women's team is seeking its third consecutive regional title. While the men's team will be gunning for its third consecutive national championship next week, last year's regional title was its first since 2008.
"I would say right now, when it comes to training, I feel like there's not much we can do to get us physically any fitter," junior Pierce Murphy said. "Right now it's about maintaining what we're doing and making sure we're not tired. Going to regionals, you want to make sure nothing goes wrong there. You want make that as easy as you can, since it's only eight days after."