Wildcats race to third-place finish at Autumn Classic

20130914SLUG HERE (Paul Pilkington)
(Source: Paul Pilkington)
Weber State University cross-country runner Kelsey Braithwaite runs in the Autumn Classic in Provo, Utah. The women’s and men’s team both finished third.

The Weber State University men’s and women’s cross-country teams invaded Provo, Utah, this past weekend as they participated in the 12th annual Autumn Classic.

The men’s team had no easy task as they raced against the fourth-ranked Brigham Young University and the eighth-ranked Pilots of the University of Portland. The four-mile course consisted of four laps around the Clarence F. Robison Track and Field Complex. The course was soggy, and some runners used athletic tape to secure their spikes on their feet.

Once again, BYU was ready to roll, hoping to win its home meet for a 10th time and show the nation it deserved the preseason ranking it had received. BYU senior Tylor Thatcher won, going away with a time of 19:54.1, and was followed by his teammate Jason Witt.

Junior Trevor Ricks placed 12th for the Wildcats with a time of 20:30.4, being the first runner for the team for the second race in a row. Junior Tip Worob had another excellent run, placing 19th, while junior Tyler Robinson placed 23rd, just 18 seconds behind Worob.

Freshman Preston Johnson and Jacob Calvillo finished off the scoring for the Wildcats, placing 39th and 44th respectively. BYU edged out the Pilots 25-33, and the Wildcats took third with 91 points.

Head coach Paul Pilkington said he felt that all of the men had better races, especially the freshmen. It was another good step for a team that has a strong top three.

“Our top three runners performed well once again, and our freshmen made improvements from last week,” Pilkington said.

Ricks said it was hard to race “against teams that are as good as BYU and Portland. But I feel like we did what we could.”

The women’s team took part in the 5K course, which was the first collegiate race for some of the touted freshmen, such as Summer Harper and Hailey Ricks. Harper did not let down in her first race donning the purple and black, as she was up with the leaders early and pushing for a top spot.

Kelsey Braithwaite, a week removed from being named Big Sky Conference Co-Runner of the Week, took part in pushing the pace early on. In the end, Pilot Laura Hottenrott took home the victory with a time of 18:06, followed by her teammate Gina Paletta. Then came the Wildcats as Harper and Braithwaite finished third and fourth. Just three seconds separated the two freshmen.

Sophomore Jamie Stokes placed 14th, while Hailey Ricks placed 15th in her debut and junior Amanda Ward was the fifth runner, taking 24th. The team score was a bit closer for this race, as BYU edged out the Pilots 37-39, while the Wildcats took third with 52 points.

“The women’s team ran very well today,” Pilkington said. “Our top runners were all freshmen and sophomores, and they performed very well. Summer ran a great race for her first career meet. We didn’t have Amber (Henry) running today, but I feel good about how we performed.”

The Wildcats will return to action on Sept. 28 as they travel to Minnesota to take part in the Roy Griak Invitational. Many of the top teams in the nation will be there to compete.