In every race this season, the men’s cross country team has placed in the top five. Going into Saturday’s West Region Championships, the team’s previous success would have been for nothing if the Broncos did not continue the strong performances in Billings, Montana.
The men did just that, finishing fourth overall and all but securing their place in the NCAA Division II Championships on Dec. 1 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“On the guys’ side we ran really well,” associate head coach Wes Ashford said. “It’s what we’ve been training for all year and they ran the race that we’ve been training for all year. We would have been happy with a top-three finish, but we’ll take fourth.”
Junior Eamon Smythe led the way for the Broncos with an 11th place finish and a time of 31 minutes, 16.63 seconds. According to Smythe, the first few thousand meters of the race was run at a slower pace before a lead pack started to push the pace about halfway through the 10,000-meter race, and Smythe pushed to keep pace.
“I just decided to go with it,” Smythe said. “I constantly kept fighting in my head, ‘Just keep pushing, just stay with them, you can do better than them,’ and that’s just what kept going through my head.”
Saturday’s race was the first time all season that the men’s team had run a 10K race. Most of the team’s other races were 8K.
Another first in the West Regional was the conditions in Billings.
Race time temperature was around 20 degrees and an overnight snowfall left about an inch of snow on the ground for the 9 a.m. race.
“The conditions were very suitable for running,” Ashford said.
Smythe said he tried to stay in the middle of the pack to keep warm throughout the race.
“The snow is kind of not really a factor just because it’s something that everyone has to deal with,” Smythe said.
“The first loop might seem a little bad just because we were the first race with fresh snow, but after that it was all packed in, (it) didn’t matter that much.”
While a top-three team finish would have automatically qualified the men for nationals, the fourth-place finish should be enough due to how their performances during the season compare to other teams across the country who placed outside the top-three in their respective regions.
According to Ashford, the committee will compare all the fourth-place finishers from all the regions to determine who qualifies.
The Broncos’ first place finish at the Festival Year Fiasco meet held in Evansville, Indiana, should prove to be critical if the team ends up earning an at-large bid because they were able to beat teams from other regions who are also looking for at-large bids.
“It looks pretty good for the guys,” Ashford said. “You’re relying on a computer and a bunch of guys pushing pencils to decide your fate, but again, it does look pretty favorable, but it’s not guaranteed.”
The women’s team needed a strong performance to qualify for nationals but were unable to match the men’s team, placing 13th overall.
“I think the women didn’t run as well as we’d hoped but that’s about where they are,” Ashford said. “We were hoping for a top-10 finish.”
Senior Anahi Betart led the Broncos in 41st place with a time of 22:17.04. Betart was unable to finish the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship meet two weeks ago due to illness.
Members of the women’s team could not be reached for comment.
Additional runners from teams that don’t qualify can earn spots at nationals but according to Ashford, none of the women’s team will qualify for nationals.
“They’re pretty much done on the women’s side,” Ashford said.
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