BOULDER - The 2012 University of Colorado cross country season officially starts on Saturday, Sept. 1 as the Buffs will host the CU Alumni/Open/Time Trial at the Buffalo Ranch Cross Country Course on CU's South Campus.
The women's 5.8-kilometer race will start at 8:30 a.m. and the men's 8k will follow at 9 a.m. Parking and admission are free.
Both of CU's cross country programs are ranked in the USTFCCCA's Coaches' Preseason Poll. The men are ranked fifth, while the women are 13th overall.
Each team has some rebuilding to do as the women lost two postseason scorers and the men lost three. The men lost a pair of All-Americans in Richard Medina and Andy Wacker, as well as all-region honoree Christian Thompson, but senior Joe Bosshard, a two-time All-American, is questionable for the year.
"The top returning male is Joe Bosshard, but he had major surgery on his hip in May, a torn labarum, which is often up to a year of recovery time," coach Mark Wetmore said. "His rehab is going well, but it will be a bit of a miracle if he's at a level that will make it sensible to use him this fall.
"Then we go to the next returning top guy from the fall which was a freshman named Ammar Moussa who is very talented and has a great work ethic. But even as a sophomore that is young. He arrived here at 17 and so he is a little young to have the mantle of the top man on his shoulders. And then we are going to our developmental guys. Aric Van Halen took a big step last spring in the steeplechase for those of you who followed our outdoor track season. He was not in our scoring varsity a year ago, but he could be this year. We've had a couple of interesting transfers come in, so it will be a new looking team on the men's side."
The transfers who Wetmore was referring to are Jake Hurysz and Morgan Pearson. Hurysz became the first UNC Tar Heel to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championships since 1997 and placed 62nd overall in 2011. He led UNC at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships and Southeast regionals, placing sixth and seventh, respectively. Pearson transferred to CU from Duke and placed 36th at the ACC Championships and was 50th at the Southeast regional.
Van Halen, who will be a senior this season, was an all-region and All-Big 12 honoree in 2010.
The women return All-American Shalaya Kipp but lost All-American Emma Coburn and Katie Cumming. They do return some significant talent in sophomore Rachel Baptista. Redshirt sophomore Jana Stolting sat out last season after she transferred from San Francisco. She placed 15th at the 2010 NCAA West Region Championship and will look to score for the Buffs this season.
"On the women side the top returner is Shalaya Kipp, who just came back from London after a wonderful outdoor track season," Wetmore said. "She is in the same situation as Emma Coburn was a year ago when Emma ran at the world championships in Korea. So Shalaya will disappear for a while and then go back into training. Coach (Heather) Burroughs and I will take a look at her around midseason and see if she is ready to go. After Shalaya, the youngster I'm most excited about is Rachel Baptista; she was a scorer for us as a freshman. She has had an excellent summer and could be an important runner for us."
The Buffs will look to defend their 2011 Pac-12 team championship titles which they won last October at the inaugural championships. The Pac-12 is perennially one to the top distance conferences in the country and this year is no different. CU's men are the top conference school at fifth, but the women's side has the top two in the country with Oregon and Washington ranked first and second, respectively.
"While we are diminished, no one in the Pac-12 returns a monster team," Wetmore said. "It's always an extremely competitive conference. I can't think of a team that returns all five of its starters or a good percentage. In our sport it's possible to recruit a completely different team in one year. Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Arizona; they will all be good. It will be one of the best conferences in the country."
For the last eight consecutive years, the NCAA Cross Country Championships have been contested in Terre Haute, Ind, but this year the championship will be held in Louisville, Ky.
"I don't like it being at the same place year after year and it had been in Terre Haute, Ind. nine of the last 10 years," Wetmore said. "The problem is that the race has been expanded to be so big that few of the old hosts could bid for it. There are really only two places that I'm aware of that can safely, fairly and comfortably host it, and that's Ames, Iowa and Terre Haute. Louisville is sure that they can and have convinced the NCAA that they can. I'm sure they are working hard to accommodate the 255 or so runners. I've never been there so it will be new to us."
After the time trial on Saturday, the Buffs will have four weeks before their next meet, the 27th Annual Rocky Mountain Shootout on September 29. Meet information for both of CU's meets is available at cubuffs.com/crosscountry.