LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The quest for a three-peat national championship by the University of Colorado men's cross country team has stirred pleasant memories for CU's first groundbreaking team from 30 years ago.
In 1985, CU placed third at the national finals. At that point it was the best finish the Buffaloes had ever put together at nationals, a mark that stood until the Buffs placed second in 1994.
Dan Reese was an All-American on that team, one of four Reese brothers out of Wheat Ridge High School who figured prominently in the development of CU's program into a national power. Reese said he had attempted to get a 30-year reunion of that team together in time to watch the three-peat attempt, but with at least one teammate out of the country, the Reese clan will settle for cheering from afar.
"We've been reminiscing a lot over the past few weeks," said Reese, who finished 15th at nationals in 1985. "I can't believe it's been 30 years. We feel like that was the team that started it all."
Reese has remained a part-time coach in the area and has consulted several current Buffaloes during their respective recruiting journeys. Among that group are current Colorado-born Buffs Kaitlyn Benner and Connor Winter, whose All-America nod last year was a source of personal pride for Reese and his family.
"Last year, when Connor made All-America, I texted him, 'Welcome to the club,' " Reese said. "It's been phenomenal to watch."
The top freshman finisher in the women's national final a year ago for Stanford, Niwot graduate Elise Cranny has been sidelined with an injury throughout the fall and will not compete at Saturday's final.
The record-setting, two-time winner of the Class 4A girls cross country state championship at Niwot, Cranny is taking a redshirt season this fall after placing 12th at nationals last year. However, Stanford coach Chris Miltenberg said the momentary respite might be the best thing for his phenom in the big picture.
"She's handled it really well," Miltenberg said. "To be honest, it probably was the best thing that could have happened to her. If you look at her last two years of high school, she was pretty much around the calendar two straight years at a really high level, and then with us had a really strong year last year.
"Totally my fault, I think by the end she was pretty tired. She started training early in the summer and was doing really well when we first got back. But I think she needed a chance to completely regroup, and I this has forced that to happen. As good as she was, I think we have a far better Elise Cranny now than we had before."
True freshmen have been an integral part of each of the CU men's national titles the past two seasons, and this year will be no exception with John Dressel in the lineup.
In Dressel's case, CU coach Mark Wetmore said he wasn't necessarily expecting immediate contributions, but the performance of the rookie from Colbert, Wash., forced his hand.
"I don't remember feeling any big expectations," Wetmore said. "In fact, we weren't sure if we would need him or use him. He just evolved well enough in practice that we decided to."
When asked about their athletic running idols, a few runners among a panel of the top individuals set for Saturday's women final didn't even cite cross country or track athletes. Yet Arkansas' Dominique Scott said she has always looked up to former Buff Jenny Simpson.
Simpson is best known for her exploits as a middle distance and steeplechase competitor, yet it is her personality that always appealed to Scott.
"I just love her as a person," Scott said. "A lot of athletes don't go out of their way to get to know fans, but when I met her she really wanted to get to know me. That's the type of footsteps I want to run in."