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WSU cross-country off to Big Sky Championships

After two weeks of rest since their latest events, the Weber State University men’s and women’s cross-country teams will head to the Big Sky Conference Championships this weekend in Flagstaff, Ariz.

For their fifth event of the year, the Wildcats will return to action to represent WSU as they battle with the other teams of the Big Sky Conference to put their best competition on display.

WSU looks to defend its solid performance from last year’s championship in Pocatello, Idaho, where the women’s team took first place and the men’s team took second place.

“We race at the Big Sky Conference Championships this weekend in Arizona, and we’re pretty confident that we can do well in both the men’s and women’s events,” said WSU sophomore team member Trevor Ricks. “We’ve had a chance to race some of the teams in the conference throughout the season, but it will be good to come together at the conference meet and match everyone up. The women should handle the meet well enough, and the guys should also be in the running for a top spot.”

The Wildcats have displayed a high level of competition this season. The women’s cross-country team, which currently holds a national ranking of 16th overall, has seen two first-place finishes this season and one second-place finish in four events. The women’s team recently returned from the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, where it finished in 10th place after competing against many of the top-ranked schools in the country.

Of the four events the men’s cross-country team has been involved in, the men have taken first, second and fourth place overall.

Both teams will now focus on the upcoming races, although they will do so one race at a time. The teams will compete in the Big Sky Championships this weekend, then will see possible action in the NCAA Mountain Regionals and, ultimately, the NCAA Championships in mid-November.

“Honestly, we should take it,” said junior team member Amber Henry, concerning the Big Sky Championships this weekend. “I don’t want to be cocky or anything, but we’re definitely confident that we can take the title pretty easily . . . With our experiences (in our races), we have been able to look at the other teams and who they have competing.”

Henry said the opportunity to compete and possibility of achieving success at the championships is very uplifting for the WSU teams.

“We are getting really excited,” she said. “We’re in the running for the Mountain Region title, and we are ranked first in (this region). So we’re going to race well; we all want to race well and take it. But there is definitely going to be a fight to get it.”

Henry, the 2011 Big Sky Champion, has finished in first place twice and in third place twice in the four events of the women’s team this season. She has also been named the Big Sky Women’s Cross-Country Athlete of the Week multiple times.

“I am still learning this whole thing,” Henry said. “I knew I should be in the top five or top 10 in the Roy Griak (Invitational). I was hoping to be in the top seven. Then I got third (place), and I thought, ‘This is cool . . .’ I just am learning a lot. I feel like I have more to it . . . and we haven’t peaked yet, so hopefully I do have more to show for myself. I actually won the conference last year and it kind of surprised me . . . but now I have an expectation for myself that I should take it . . . and if not me, my teammates.”

With the leadership of Henry and other top runners, the Wildcats will be putting up their best competition this weekend when they fight to return home as Big Sky champions.

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