Utah colleges kick off cross-country championship qualifying
The cross-country season begins in earnest Saturday.
Utah's six Division I cross-country programs will try to get as many runners as they can qualified for the upcoming West Regionals on Nov. 9 and the NCAA Championships on Nov. 17.
The BYU and Utah State men and women from Weber State and Utah Valley are expected to be the class of their respective conferences.
"It'll probably be kind of a dual meet between Portland and us," BYU men's coach Ed Eyestone said in preparation of the West Coast Conference meet at Portland, Ore. "Gonzaga has a few good athletes and maybe there are one or two good athletes from the other schools, but in terms of team matchups, it's pretty much us and [No. 17] Portland."
Utah, which fields only a women's team, heads to Westwood, Calif., for the Pac-12 Championships, while the Aggies head to the WAC Championships at Louisiana Tech.
Weber State and Southern Utah will race at the Buffalo Park course in Flagstaff, Ariz., and Utah Valley competes in its final Great West Conference meet at Chicago.
Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, they are without their All-American and Olympian, Cam Levins, who graduated. Still, SUU has had some promising performances and team results in 2012.
"We are really excited to get out there and compete in the new conference this weekend," SUU head coach Eric Houle said about his team's Big Sky debut. "Both teams are looking strong, and we're expecting to see some great performances."
The 13th-ranked Wildcats, led by Amber Henry and Sarah Callister, are prepared to defend their title. Weber State recently placed 10th among 48 teams at the prestigious Wisconsin Invitational, beating West powers BYU and Northern Arizona.
The Utah Valley women pulled off one of the big surprises this season by finishing first in its division at pre-nationals, something coach Scott Houle called the biggest victory in school history.
UVU defeated, among others, Louisville, West Virginia and South Carolina, thanks to Darian Sharp and Krystal Harper, who finished seventh and 22nd, respectively.
"When someone like Utah Valley, who no one knows, beats a team like South Carolina, who everyone knows, it's a great big deal," Houle said afterward.