There are few runners remaining in the Colorado cross country team who were on the roster when the Buffaloes' men's team captured consecutive national championships in 2013 and 2014.
One of those who indeed was there was CU senior Melanie Nun. And when she considers the national championship aspirations of this year's CU women's team, Nun can't help but compare her close-knit teammates to the men's group that brought home the program's first back-to-back national titles.
"I got to watch the guys team win two national championships, and the guys teams that won were really close-knit," said Nun, a senior from Legacy High School. "If you asked them they'd say they're running for each other. I don't know if it's a coincidence that those teams are the ones that happened to win, but I think probably not.
"I don't want to have any regrets at all. I don't want to finish and think I'm never going to get a chance to leave it all out there again."
Nun will be running her final cross country meet Saturday as the Buffs' women's team seeks the program's third national title at the NCAA championships in Louisville, Ky., and the first since 2004.
With inclement weather expected Saturday in the Louisville area, the NCAA has moved up the start times for the cross country championships with the women's 6K race now set for 7 a.m. MT and the men's 10K race following at 8 a.m.
Nun is the veteran on a squad comprised largely by underclassmen that enters the championship meet as the top-ranked team in the nation. The CU women's team rolled through the Pac-12 Conference championship, with Dani Jones claiming the Buffs' first individual title since joining the league, before winning the Mountain Region championship last week for the fifth consecutive time and the seventh time in nine years.
The women's team is coming off an efficient run at the regional final, with the Buffs' top six runners all finishing between seventh and 20th. Because they didn't have to overexert themselves in order to qualify for nationals, the squad should have plenty in the tank despite the short turnaround.
"Every team every year is different, but recently our women's team has been a happier group than some other teams I've seen," CU coach Mark Wetmore said. "There doesn't seem to be any cliques or hostility or jealousy among them. That can be difficult when you have 12 good runners but can only take seven. They're happy to see each other succeed and work in a synergistic way to make each other better."
The men's team finished third at the Mountain Region final but, spurred by an individual regional title from sophomore Joe Klecker (the Buffs' first since assistant coach Billy Nelson in 2005), the Buffs received an at-large bid to Saturday's final. The entire season has been a sort of long adjustment for the team after an injury robbed the Buffs of their top returning runner, John Dressel, after the first big meet of the year in September at Notre Dame.
Klecker has more than picked up the slack, and he believes the Buffs still have a chance to put it all together in time for a strong showing Saturday. The CU men's team has not finished lower than sixth at the NCAA final since 2010.
"I think everyone has shown they have the potential to help the team out in a big way," Klecker said. "I think it's going to be a matter of on Saturday have everyone do what they've done this season, but we haven't really put it together on one day. Some people had good days at the Pac-12 while some were off. Some had good (days) at the Mountain Region but some were off. If everyone can put their top performance together on the same day, I think that's how we'll move up the podium."
Earlier this week, Wetmore was named the Mountain Region coach of the year for the ninth time, while Klecker was named the Mountain Region men's athlete of the year.