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For some, the cross-country season truly started this weekend at the Adidas Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wis. The Wildcats were one of 37 teams in the field, which featured 35 teams ranked nationally in both races. The men’s race included six of the top 10 teams, which included conference foe No. 3-ranked Northern Arizona University.
The Weber State University women’s team once again went to battle without its All-American senior Amber Henry, who will make her season debut in the conference meet. The team was also missing sophomore Kelsey Braithwaite, who was out with a foot problem.
Freshman Summer Harper led the team to a 31st-place finish with a time of 20 minutes, 54 seconds over the 6-kilometer course while placing 72nd overall. Sophomore Jamie Stokes was close behind, finishing just nine seconds behind Harper with a time of 21:03, placing 91st.
“We did not have two of our top five runners due to injury, but I felt that Summer and Jamie ran really well,” said head coach Paul Pilkington. “In fact, Jamie ran faster this year on that course than she did last year.
“Of course, we would have done a bit better with our top two, but I was pleased with the performance. The freshmen are making adjustments and running faster than they did in high school. That is what you hope for, for them to make that transition fast.”
NAU upset Providence College, which came in ranked first in the nation, winning the meet with a score of 117. The University of Arkansas took second with a score of 136, followed by PC. The individual title went to Abbey D’Agostino of Dartmouth College with a time of 19:31, setting a new course record.
The men’s team had the daunting task of running against some of the best young talent of the nation, relying heavily on the talent of junior Trevor Ricks. He once again led the Wildcats, finishing in 141st place, running 24:35 over the 8-kilometer course.
Junior Tip Worop continued his stellar season, placing second for the Wildcats with a time of 25:12. He was followed by freshman Preston Johnson and junior Tyler Robinson, who were only separated by two seconds.
“Trevor once again (did) really well leading the team, but I thought Tip ran well too,” Pilkington said. “He is still recovering from a motorcycle accident just over a week ago. I thought he did well while still dealing with some soreness.”
It was the best finish for Johnson this year, and proof that the freshmen are continuing to grow.
“I didn’t run very well; I have been sick,” Robinson said. “I am hoping to be better by the time conference comes around.”
NAU captured the team title, beating out Brigham Young University by the score of 174-121. NAU was led by Futsum Zenesialle, who placed sixth overall. Kemoy Campbell from UA set an aggressive early pace and held on to win by two seconds with a time of 23:12.
As the season starts to come to the end, the team is hoping to peak at the right moment. Pilkington is positive about the team’s chances at the conference and beyond.
“For the women, we should win conference with the additions of Amber and Kelsey,” he said. “We haven’t raced our full girls team yet this year. On the men’s side, Northern Arizona is second in the nation, which played into us redshirting Mike Hardy this fall. If we have a great race, they should finish fourth or fifth.”
The Wildcats will now prepare for their next race, the Big Sky Championships in Billings, Mont., on Nov. 2.