Utah State's men's and women's cross-country teams will eagerly await Saturday's announcement of the teams that will participate in the 2017 NCAA Cross Country National Championships. After a strong showing at the regional race, the Aggies look to be in a good position to qualify as teams.
"It looks like we'll go to nationals," said acting head cross-country coach Artie Gulden. "We won't know for sure until 1 p.m. tomorrow, but that's what it's looking like right now."
As a team, the Aggie women placed fourth at the NCAA Regional Championships on Friday on the Steve and Dona Reeder Cross Country Course, while the men placed seventh. Individually, seniors Dillon Maggard and Tylee Skinner and juniors Kashley Carter and Alyssa Snyder earned all-region honors by finishing in the top 25.
"I feel really good," Maggard said. "I think everyone put in their best, and that's all you can ask for. If we make it, we make it. If we don't, we can't hang our heads. The team's been transforming ever since coach Gulden took charge. The team's improving a lot, and this is just the beginning. In the future, as the program develops, we have a lot of sophomores on the team, so in the future the men's team will make nationals if we don't this year."
For Carter, making the trip to Nationals would help erase the memory of last year, where she just missed the cut to qualify individually.
"It makes it so great being here on our course," Carter said. "It's honestly going to be so much better with the team and doing it for our coach. It broke my heart that I didn't make it last year, but this year is going to be so much better."
The women's team finished strong as a pack. While the top trio earned all-conference honors as Carter placed 11th (20:29.0), Snyder ended in 17th (20:38.2) and Skinner took 19th (20:39.0), the rest of the Aggie qualifiers ran strong together.
In fact, just 42 seconds separated USU's top-five runners. Senior Tori Parkinson placed 37th with a time of 21:06.9, while junior Cierra Simmons took 41st, finishing the 6-kilometer race in 21:11.0.
"That's awesome," Skinner said. "I didn't know that. That's really exciting. We've really tried to run as a pack this year, and it sounds like we still did it today."
On the men's side, sophomores James Withers and Luke Beattie placed in the top 50, as they finished in 37th and 48th with times of 31:21.3 and 31:33.3, respectively, in the 10-kilometer race.
The NCAA National Championship race will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18, and hosted by Louisville at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park with the women running at 8:45 a.m. MT, and the men at 9:45 a.m.
Doug Hoffman is the associate athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.