Two Big Sky Titles On The Line Friday
By SUU Strategic Communication
CEDAR CITY, Utah - The Thunderbird men’s and women’s cross country teams will be in Moscow, Idaho, on Friday as they will both run for the Big Sky Conference Championship. This year the Championship is being hosted by the University of Idaho.
Last Time Out
The last time the men’s team competed was at the Wisconsin Invitational, where the team finished in 12th place in a race that featured 19 of the top teams in the entire country.
Matt Wright led the way for the Thunderbirds in Wisconsin, with a 45th place finish running the 8K course in 24:33.4.
The performance in Madison moved the team up to the No. 20 spot in the USTFCCCA Coaches’ Poll.
The very next day the women’s team claimed a first place finish at the Bronco Invitational, as the T-Birds had four athletes finish in the top-15 at the event.
Josie Riggs was the top finisher for the Thunderbirds, landing in eighth place overall in the field with a time of 20:48.5 on the 6K course.
Defending the Crown - Men’s Preview
The No. 20 Thunderbird men’s team will enter competition in Moscow as the defending Big Sky Conference Champions, after pulling out a team victory at home last season to claim their first rings since joining the Big Sky Conference.
The Thunderbirds spent the majority of the season racing among the best teams in the country in an attempt to make a third straight trip to the NCAA National Championships.
The T-Birds were led for the majority of the season by sophomore Kasey Knevelbaard, who led the way for the team in the majority of the races this season. Knevelbaard was also awarded for his efforts, winning Big Sky Athlete of the Week three times during the course of the season.
SUU head coach Eric Houle said that he’s excited to see how the race shapes up on the men’s side.
“It doesn’t really matter what we’ve done in the past, it’s all 12 teams on one course at one time so obviously anything can happen,” he said.
Making a Statement - Women’s Preview
The SUU women’s team will enter competition on Friday as the No. 13 ranked team in the Mountain Region. The Lady T-Birds have made big improvements from last season, as they are looking to finish amongst the top in the Big Sky this time around.
Angie Nickerson was SUU’s go-to early on in the season, as she compiled three first-place finishes for SUU. However, in SUU’s last two meets Sharlie Dimick and Josie Riggs both claimed the top spot for the team, so the Thunderbirds will have a balanced attack going into the Conference Championships.
Coach Houle said he has enjoyed watching this women’s team grow right before his eyes, and is excited to see what they’re able to do moving forward.
“How they’ve developed I think is part of the culture of the program, but to take the steps they have this year, I didn’t think that was going to happen,” he said.
Houle compared this group to his women’s team that ended up fourth in the Mountain Region in 2012.
Scouting the Big Sky
On the men's side Northern Arizona University has spent the majority of the season among the top ranked teams in the country, and will enter the Big Sky Conference Championships as the outright No. 1 team in the country. They are coming off a big performance at the Wisconsin Invitational where they won the meet to stay at the top of the nation.
Coach Houle said the matchup between his No. 20 team and Coach Eric Heins’ No. 1 team is something he’s really looking forward to.
“I know Eric (Heins) really well, he’s a good man and he’s done a great job there,” he said.
On the women’s side Weber State is the top ranked team in the Mountain Region, and they will enter the Conference Championships ranked No. 7. NAU is No. 9 in the same region and Montana is one spot below SUU at No. 14. Idaho is currently the No. 13 team in the West Region.
Men’s Team: No. 20 in the USTFCCCA Coaches’ Poll
Men’s Team: No. 6 in the Mountain Region
Women’s Team: No. 13 in the Mountain Region
Athletes of the Week
Big Sky Conference Athletes of the Week:
Week 1: Kasey Knevelbaard (1st @ Sagebrush Invitational)
Week 3: Kasey Knevelbaard (9th @ Roy Griak)
Week 4: Kasey Knevelbaard (12th @ Notre Dame)
Watch It Live
This year’s Big Sky Championships will be streamed live on Facebook. They will be showing the races and the awards live. Those wanting to watch can go to www.facebook.com/IdahoTrack/ to watch the event.
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