MSU XC going to conference championships

The end of October marks the beginning of the championship portion of the season for NCAA cross country, as the MSU men’s and women’s teams will compete at the Big Sky Conference Championships on Oct. 28, in Moscow, Idaho. The teams have been preparing for this race all season, physically and mentally, starting with the Bozeman Running Company Invitational on Sept. 17, then the Montana Invitational in Missoula on Sept. 30 and, most recently, the Pre-Nationals Invitational in Indiana on Oct. 16 to compete with some of the best teams in the country.

It has been a year of tremendous growth for both teams, and Head Cross Country Coach Lyle Weese is confident in both the men’s and women’s potential to compete well. “Both the men’s and women’s teams have yet to run their best race of the season. If we put it together on the correct day, we could really run well at the conference and regional meets,” Weese said.

The women’s team has built up an admirable resume over the course of the 2016 season. They opened up the season with a fifth place finish at home on the Bridger Creek golf course for the MSU/Bozeman Running Company Invite. They followed up their debut with a commanding victory over Montana and Gonzaga at the Montana Invitational. Their performance was enough to garner them a spot in the blue race with some of the strongest nationally ranked teams in the country at the Pre-Nationals Invite in Terre Haute, Indiana. The blue race featured eight top 30 teams, and the ladies finished 41st.

The team struggled at Pre-Nationals, a lot of which had to do with lack of experience, but they will be more prepared to race against large competitive fields in the future. Sophomore Alyssa Snyder has led the women’s team in scoring all year, improving with each race. The remaining scorers have been a consistent group of runners in the top five, including: sophomore Layne Oliver, freshman Madison Liechty, junior Louisa Serpe and sophomore Kelsi Lasota. Their consistency will be key to placing well at the conference championships.

The men’s team has also grown a lot in the 2016 season. They finished fourth place at the MSU/Bozeman Running Company Invite along with a pair of unattached MSU runners in the top 20 for individual placing. At the Montana Invite, they were able to dispatch Montana, but fell just short to Gonzaga, who was ranked 11th in the West region. At Pre-Nationals, the men placed fourth out of 20 teams in the white race ahead of Clemson, Wake Forest and Arizona. The men’s team has been led in scoring all year by sophomore Ty Mogan, who has had a breakout season, while the rest of the points have come from a variety of different runners.

Senior Zach Kughn has had several successful performances as a consistent second runner for MSU, while freshman Isaac Barville, senior Adam Wollant, sophomore Noah Kirkland, sophomore Anthony Schmalz and senior Shawn Peden have each taken turns scoring, showcasing the depth of the team. The men’s Big Sky Conference Championship will feature No. 20 ranked Southern Utah and No. 1 ranked Northern Arizona.

The teams are hoping to come through big if they can put it all together in Idaho on Oct. 28.