Ally Romanko was the top finisher for an Air Force Academy women's team showing a lot of improvement over recent seasons. Photo by Alan Versaw.
It's safe to say that this weekend changes a lot of perceptions about the upcoming collegiate cross country season here in Colorado.
And, no team's performances spoke of more changed perceptions that Adams State's. We knew the Adams State men were good and nothing about this weekend's performance did anything to dilute those expectations. Rather, if anything can be inferred from a meet this early in the season, the expectations for Adams State ratcheted upwards a notch or two. The front four for Adams, namely Brian Medigovich, Reuben Mwei, Ryan McNiff, and Aaron Braun, have things rolling in a serious way. For now, Del Norte graduate and redshirt freshman Edwin Cruz has put his hat in the ring for the #5 slot for the Grizzlies.
The major revelation for Adams State came on the women's side. While J. J. Lende may be gone for the Grizzlies, Platte Canyon graduate Kristen McGlynn more than compensates for the loss. And, pretty clearly, Moffat County graduate Alicia Nelson is ready to shoulder a big portion of the load for the Adams State women.
Things are humming along rather nicely in Alamosa, or so it would appear.
The same can't be said for Gunnison. While it's a long season with lots of time for things to change for the better, a top finish of 8th place in both races at the Joe Vigil Invitational does not portend favorably. Neither does the fact that Julianne Payton did not appear in the race on Saturday after running a shorter circuit in the team time trial two weeks earlier.
But here is an interesting little factoid from the Joe Vigil Invite: If the WSC-unattached women had been scored as a team, they would have beaten the actual scoring team from Western State. That little observation could come to have more meaning later in the season. In any case, it will be interesting to see how Western State comes out at their own invitational later this month.
About all we learned from the CU Alumni/Open Time Trial is that the following notable names won't be redshirting this year: Andy Wacker, Christian Thompson, Allison Sawyer, and Jenny Barringer. Even that isn't terribly surprising in light of the fact that there may not be a remaining redshirt year to use between the four of them. Mark Wetmore isn't known for showing his hand early.
Although it was a meet of only four teams, the Wyoming Invitational surely brought some measure of optimism to the CSU and UNC programs. CSU went 1-2-3 on the men's side en route to an easy team victory. On the women's side, Ellie Rastall continues her lofty trajectory toward elite status, setting a new meet record for the women. CSU narrowly claimed the team title as well.
The UNC women, though not a threat to take the team title at Wyoming, did manage to slip ahead of the host school for third, largely on the strength of a solid run by Pine Creek graduate Kellie Callahan. The Bears were the consensus last place pick in the Big Sky, but that placing may come under review if they continue to run as they did on Friday. True freshman Bridget Tiernan (Pine Creek) finished fourth for the Bears, indicating that UNC may get some solid help from this year's incoming class.
The state's other DI program, Air Force, spotted everyone else an big lead on the first 2K circuit of both the men's and women's races at the UCCS Rust Buster. After one lap, however, the Falcons broke formation and pursued with at least moderate interest. To nobody's suprise the men look very solid at least through three with Zach Nordahl, James Walmsley, and Justin Tyner leading the way. The top women for Air Force ended up sticking together through the second circuit as well (only with a stiffer pace than on the first circuit), but it was Ally Romanko who had the strongest charge at the end. The Air Force women's days as a doormat of the Mountain West seem to be numbered, and the number is very small.
Elsewhere, the Mines men and women looked fit and strong at the UCCS Rust Buster. While the Mines women never quite reached cellar-dweller status in the RMAC, this year's team is clearly improved over recent years. Sydney Laws should have left Colorado Springs on Friday with a solid new dose of confidence.
Alexis Skarda of Mesa State had a very nice season-opening run, finishing second to only Kristen McGlynn at the Joe Vigil Invitational. Boding even better for Skarda was the fact that she and her teammates finished second in the meet, moving ahead of Western State in the team standings.
Metro State also came out of the weekend with the look of a team that should figure among this year's contenders for a national berth. A large gap between #4 and #5 for the women will have to be remedied, but it is early in the season. And Danielle Kehoe looks to be heading toward a solid season of leadership for the Roadrunners. The men have no comparable gap at 4-5 and should be at least as competitive as the last couple of years.