For the fourth straight year, the Colorado women’s cross country team is the NCAA Mountain Region Champion. The top-ranked Buffaloes placed all five scorers in the top 10 on Friday morning to earn one of the two automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championship in eight days.
The men, who were ranked second in the nation and third in the region heading into the meet, also earned an automatic berth to nationals, finishing second overall in Logan. Utah..
Colorado dominated the team race, putting together a total score of 35 points to handily defeat No. 6 New Mexico (109), the reigning NCAA Champion, by 74 points. Air Force was third (111) and Pac-12 rival Utah was fourth (136). CU averaged a pack time of 20:21.62 on the 6-kilometer course. To put that into perspective, the runner-up, UNM, averaged 20:46.24.
“The strategy was to run near the top group and to just advance,” coach Mark Wetmore said. “We didn’t talk to them about staying together, but they definitely were waiting and just letting the race unfold, being business-like.”
The Buffs finished the race in a solid pack, finishing just a few seconds from each other. Sophomore Makena Morley led CU, tying for fourth overall (20:19.90). Right behind her was junior Kaitlyn Benner, who was sixth (20:20.30). Senior Erin Clark and sophomore Mackenzie Caldwell were seventh and eighth, respectively. Clark finished in 20:20.70 and Caldwell’s time was 20:21.00. The final Buff to score was freshman Tabor Scholl, who was 10th with a time of 20:26.20.
Colorado’s men, racing in their first 10k of the season, performed quite well, recording 76 points overall, which was three more than BYU’s 79. Northern Arizona, the No. 1 team in the country, won the race with 60 points.
“At 10,000 meters in elevation, as a freshman this is a really good run for him. This is the race he’s been waiting for all season,” Wetmore said.
Redshirt freshman Joe Klecker recorded the best individual finish for CU in over 10 years when he crossed the line third overall. The last time a Buff earned a top three finish was in 2005 when current Colorado assistant coach Billy Nelson won the meet. Klecker, who was running his first collegiate 10k, finished in 30:59.20.
The pack Klecker ran in all came in within a few seconds. NAU’s Futsum Zienasellassie was the region champion, finishing in 30:54.10, while UTEP’s Jonah Koech was second (30:58.60). BYU’s Nicolas Montanez was fourth (30:59.50), finishing just ahead of CU’s No. 2 runner, sophomore John Dressel (30:59.70), who was fifth.