FORT COLLINS, Colo. - University of Colorado junior Shalaya Kipp turned in her best performance of the cross country season, racing to a second-place finish at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships here at the Collindale Golf Course on Friday afternoon.
The 24th-rated women's team, which was ranked third in the region heading into this meet, placed third overall with a team score of 107. Weber State won the meet with 63 points and New Mexico was second with 95 points. The top two teams in the region automatically advance to nationals, so the Buffs will have to wait until Saturday when the at-large teams are announced for the NCAA Championships.
The No. 2 nationally ranked men's team surprisingly also placed third and will have to wait for Saturday's announcement to see if they will be heading to nationals. The Buffs recorded a team score of 69 points, just one less than second-place BYU (68). Northern Arizona won the meet with 56 points.
Kipp had a great race, running with the lead pack the entire time. She really kicked it into high gear in the last 500 meters of the race, improving from sixth to second to finish with a time of 20 minutes and 18.1 seconds and just bested Weber State's Amber Henry (20:18.4) at the line.
CU coach Mark Wetmore was very pleased with Kipp's performance. This was her third race of the season and she showed great progress from her 11th-place finish two weeks ago at the Pac-12 Championships.
"Shalaya was first resting from the Olympics and then it was getting back into shape and then she was a little sick (at Pac-12s), so it's been a long annoying season for her," Wetmore said. "Today was a much better indication of what kind of runner she is. She was sixth heading into the final 500 and she closed very well."
"Individually I am glad to see I'm getting healthy and back into shape," Kipp said. "It makes me happy and much more optimistic about nationals eight days from now. As a team I think we are third, so we are right on the cusp of making it to nationals. I know every girl on the team went out there and gave it their hardest and hopefully tomorrow all seven of us will be going to nationals."
Carrie Verdon also had a very nice run for the Buffs, placing seventh overall as just a true freshman. She had a time of 20:42.1 and was right up there in the lead pack for the majority of the race.
"Carrie has so far been zero drama," Wetmore said. "She shows up every day and gets the job done. I bet when the results are out she is one of the best true freshmen in the race. It was a very nice race for her."
The rest of the team did well. Liz Tremblay was CU's third scorer, crossing the finish in 27th place (21:21.1). Rachel Viger was 31st overall (21:29.3) and Courtney Bouchet took 40th overall to round out CU's team score (21:40.6).
"I'm pretty happy with what they did today," Wetmore said. "On paper we thought that maybe we could get an auto-spot, we might be able to get second. We only finished a handful of points behind second place, so I'd have to say they ran about what I hoped for and a little better than the form chart."
Even though the women didn't automatically qualify, Wetmore is very optimistic they will advance when the teams are announced.
"I'm never confident with this points system, which is pretty incomprehensible, but my guess is that they will get in," he said.
The men's team was the favorite heading into the meet and had either won regionals or placed second at this meet for the last 20 years. This year they had an off day and just missed an automatic berth by a single point.
Jake Hurysz was the top finisher for the Buffs, crossing the finish line in 30:13.2 for sixth overall and Martin Medina turned in his best performance of the season with a seventh-place finish in 30:14.0.
"Martin has gotten better and better each year," Wetmore said. "He has made a big jump from last year. One of the things that pleases me with this group of men is that somebody steps up in each race. Martin had a big race for us today."
The Buffs have been running in a tight pack this whole season and this race was no different as they all finished in the top-25. Blake Theroux took 14th (30:30.3) and Pierce Murphy was 19th (30:36.6). Aric Van Halen was the final Buff to score, placing 23rd overall.
"This is a qualifying round, so as you can see by the first few kilometers that all of the top teams were playing a little close to the vest," Wetmore said. "I'm not thrilled with how we closed over the last three to four kilometers, but they will get through (to nationals) with this performance. It's a little bit of a matter of focus and maybe I was mistaken in talking us down a little. But if we get through, there won't be any talking down in the next eight days."
Hurysz was disappointed after the meet despite his sixth-place finish.
"I followed the plan and Mark's instructions," he said. "We sat back a little too much today. I don't really think we followed Mark's plan as closely as we should have and we paid for it. We have a lot of work to do the next week."
No matter what happens, the Buffs will have at least three harriers at the national championships since the top four individual runners in each race not on the two teams that qualified automatically advance to nationals. Kipp earned her spot to nationals with a runner-up finish and Hurysz and Medina also advanced with their sixth and seventh-place finishes, respectively.
The top 25 performers in each race earn all-region honors. Kipp was the highest finisher for the Buffs with a second-place finish and Verdon also earned all-region honors with her seventh-place finish. All five of CU's men's scorers, Hurysz, Medina, Theroux, Murphy and Van Halen, were named to the all-region team as well.
The 2012 NCAA Cross Country Championships are Saturday, November 17 in Louisville, Ky.
2012 NCAA MOUNTAIN REGION CHAMPIONSHIP
Collindale Golf Course (Fort Collins, Colo.)
MEN'S 10K TEAM SCORES
1. Northen Arizona, 56; 2. BYU, 68; 3. Colorado, 69; 4. New Mexico, 108; 5. Weber State, 196; 6. US Air Force Academy, 231; 7. Utah Valley, 235; 8. Southern Utah, 257; 9. Colorado State, 265; 10. UTEP, 267; 11. Texas Tech, 275; 12. Montana State, 280; 13. Wyoming, 283; 14. Utah State, 315; 15. New Mexico Stae, 389; 16. Idaho State, 434; 17. Montana, 513; 18. Northern Colorado, 570.
MEN'S FINISHERS (Top 10):
1. Kennedy Kithuka, TTU, 29:36.8; 2. Anthony Rotich, UTEP, 29:55.9; 3. Jared Ward, BYU, 30:06.3; 4. Futsum Zienasellassie, NAU, 30:06.8; 5. Brian Shrader, NAU, 30:09.5; 6. Jake Hurysz, CU, 30:13.2; 7. Martin Medina, CU, 30:14.0; 8. Nate Jewkes, SUU, 30:16.2; 9. Tylor Thatcher, BYU, 30:17.3; 10. Matt McElroy, NAU, 30:20.0.
Other CU Finishers: 14. Blake Theroux, 30:03.3; 19. Pierce Murphy, 30:36.6; 23. Aric Van Halen, 30:50.7; 34. Morgan Pearson, 31:05.1; 53. Hugh Dowdy, 31:46.6
WOMEN'S 6K TEAM SCORES
1. Weber State, 63; 2. New Mexico, 95; 3. Colorado, 107; 4. Southern Utah, 132; 5. Colorado State, 173; 6. Utah, 198; 7. BYU, 210; 8. Northern Arizona, 225; 9. Utah Valley, 230; 10. Utah State, 326; 11. US Air Force, 328; 12. Idaho State, 343; 13. Nevada, 361; 14. Wyoming, 364; 15. Montana State, 382; 16. New Mexico State, 382; 18. UTEP, 433; 18. Northern Colorado, 456; 19. Montana, 555; 20. Texas Tech, 561.
WOMEN'S FINISHERS (Top 10):
1. Risper Kimaiyo, UTEP, 20:10.8; 2. Shalaya Kipp, CU, 20:18.2; 3. Amber Henry, WSU, 20:18.4; 4. Amanda Mergaert, Utah, 20:18.7; 5. Josephine Moultrie, UNM, 20:25.1; 6. Courtney Schultz, NMSU, 20:26.6; 7. Carrie Verdon, CU, 20:42.1; 8. Sarah Callister, WSU, 20:45.1; 9. Rochelle Kanuho, NAU, 20:49.1; 10. Charlotte Arter, UNM, 20:54.3.
Other CU Finishers: 27. Liz Tremblay, 21:21.1; 31. Rachel Viger, 21:29.3; 40. Courtney Bouchet, 21:40.6; 45. Camille Logan, 21:43.5; 55. Jana Stolting, 21:57.7.