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CU Buffs track and field teams primed for NCAA West prelims

Colorado senior Val Constien enters the NCAA West Track and Field Preliminaries seeded 15th in the steeplechase.
Courtesy / CU athletics
Colorado senior Val Constien enters the NCAA West Track and Field Preliminaries seeded 15th in the steeplechase.

Mark Wetmore isn’t the sort of coach known to deliver fiery pep talks.

For Wetmore, Colorado’s longtime cross country and track and field coach, it’s all about respecting the training process and honing a sharp mental edge.

And at no time do those tenets become more important than during the postseason.

CU’s track and field teams are hitting the stretch run for the 2018 outdoor season, a march that continues this weekend at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Sacramento, Calif. The Buffaloes will boast 24 athletes competing in a total of 48 events over the three-day competition, which begins today at Hornet Stadium.

The top 12 finishers in each event will advance to the NCAA championships, scheduled for June 6-9 in Eugene, Ore.

“I don’t do pep talks or motivational speeches, but I would hope that they’ve planned their year to feel well here,” Wetmore said. “And I hope they’ve planned their life so they can focus on this and not be worrying about anything a month from now.

“The conference meet always tells us a lot, if somebody runs out and looks like they’re at the end of their tether. But I would say no. They all looked fresh. They all looked competitive. They did well there and had a week and a half of good training and good rest, and I think they’re ready to go again.”

Wetmore feels confident at least “seven to nine” CU athletes will advance to the finals in two weeks. Among the leading candidates to do so are Sage Hurta and Zach Perrin.

Hurta, a sophomore, is set to compete in the 800-, 1,500- and 5,000-meter races in addition to the steeplechase, where she and teammate Val Constien will look to continue the Buffs’ tradition of excellence in the event pioneered by Olympians Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn. Hurta is seeded ninth in the steeplechase while Constien enters at No. 15.

Perrin, a senior, is seeded seventh in the 5,000-meter run.

Among the other potential highlights for the Buffs is the final — or, if all goes well, the next-to-last — collegiate competitions for CU’s seniors like Erin Clark. A fifth-year senior, Clark finished fifth in the 10K at nationals a year ago. She and teammate Kaitlyn Benner are seeded 12th and 14th, respectively, in the 10K.

If Clark advances she will have an opportunity to compete one last time in her hometown of Eugene.

“No one really cares what the times or the results are. It’s just hand-to-hand combat, really,” Wetmore said. “Whoever is first is no different from whoever is 12th, because they all go through to Eugene. So that’s the point, for the people who are running tactical races, to make good decisions and be in good positions and be ready to race when it begins.”

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