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WSU cross-country: the women's cross country team heads to NCAA Championships

By Paul Grua

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15 2012 6:10 p.m. MST

WSU's Amber Henry is expected to lead the Wildcats at the NCAA Championships on Saturday.

Weber State Athletics

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For the second straight season, the Weber State women’s cross-country team is heading to the NCAA Championships. The Wildcats will run at the meet this Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.

The meet will be held Saturday at the E.P. Tom Saywer State Park in Louisville, hosted by the University of Louisville. Weber State will be one of 31 teams that have qualified for the meet and is the only women’s team from the Big Sky and the state of Utah at the meet. The women’s 6K race will begin at 10:00 a.m. MST on Saturday. The top 40 finishers in the race will earn All-American honors. For the first time since World War II, the meet will be held on a Saturday instead of a Monday, and this will be the first ever cross-country championships held in the state of Kentucky. The race will be shown live online at ncaa.com.

Weber State enters this meet ranked 15th in the nation in the latest national polls. The Wildcats are coming off a first place finish at the NCAA Mountain region, their first region victory in school history. The Wildcats scored 63 points in the meet in Fort Collins, Colo., and defeated second-place New Mexico by 32 points. The top five of Weber State’s runners all earned All-Region honors led by junior Amber Henry who finished third overall. Sarah Callister was eighth, Taylor Thornley finished 13th, Jamie Stokes was 17th and Laken Hintze was 22nd. Those five athletes along with Kayla Blackford and Suzanna Cressal will run this week at the national meet.

Last week and all season, Weber State has been led by junior Amber Henry who has led the Wildcats in every meet this season. Henry, the two-time Big Sky champion, finished third overall in the Mountain region meet, leading Weber State to the title. She posted a time of 20:18.4 on the 6K course, missing second place by less than one second. In the six meets this season, Henry has finished first three times and third three times.

“We are really excited to be back at the NCAA Championships and are looking forward to the meet," coach Paul Pilkington said. "I think we will race better this year because of our experience in being there last year. We had a great race at the region meet last week and if we race like we did there we will have a great finish.

"A key for the team will be for our fourth and fifth runners to race well. Last week we had a 53-second spread from our first to fifth runners which is really good. If we do that again we will be in great shape this week. Individually we expect Amber, Sarah and Taylor to all have a shot at earning All-American honors.”

This will be Weber State’s fifth trip to the NCAA Championships as a team and the third in the last seven years. The Wildcats first advanced to the national meet in 1991 and finished 21st overall, their best team finish. They also competed in 2000, 2006 and 2011, where they finished 29th overall. The five NCAA appearances is the second most of any team in Big Sky history behind Northern Arizona. Weber State’s best individual performance at the NCAA meet was Sharlyn Maughan who finished 24th overall in 1997. Other top individual performances include Rebecca Bennion who was 33rd in 2000, Sariah Long who finished 54th in 2007 and current WSU assistant coach and former Olympian Lindsey Anderson who was 62nd in 2006.

Weber State head coach Paul Pilkington has been named the Mountain Region Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association after leading Weber State to the region title last week. This is Pilkington’s first Region Coach of the Year honor in cross-country. He was named Big Sky Coach of the Year for the second straight season earlier this year after leading the Wildcats to a repeat of the conference title.

Paul Grua is the Athletics Media Relations Director at Weber State University.

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