TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- The Weber State women's cross country team earned its chance to run on the national stage, competing this morning in the week's NCAA Championships.
The Wildcats are on their fourth trip to the NCAA championships, to be contested in Terre Haute, Ind.
Coach Paul Pilkington's Wildcats earned the spot by finishing third overall on Nov. 5 at the NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Provo. The 'Cats were led by sophomore Amber Henry, who finished sixth overall with a time of 21:04 on the 6K course.
Weber State, which won this year's Big Sky title, last advanced to the NCAA Championships in 2006.
"This race has a big field with a lot of talented runners," Pilkington said. "The key for us will be getting our fourth and fifth runners up into the pack to maintain contact. We need to run with some maturity."
Pilkington said a good goal would be to finish in the top 20 as a team and to get someone to finish the top 40 individuals.
"The top 40 runners earn all-America honors, so one of goals is make that happen," Pilkington said. "Amber Henry and Sarah Callister are certainly both capable of getting to that level."
Today's lineup includes Henry, Callister, Laken Hintze, Taylor Thornley, Jenna Deelstra, Kayla Blackford and Suzanna Sorensen. All seven are sophomores and juniors.
WSU will be joined by BYU, an at-large qualifier as well.
On the men's side, BYU will take aim at a national title and be joined by Utah State senior Brian McKenna and Southern Utah runners Cameron Levins and Nate Jewkes.
The field will also include Oregon's Luke Puskedra, who figures to be one of a number of contenders for the individual title. He finished third at the 2010 NCAA Championships, and a week ago was sixth at the West Regional at Stanford.
Puskedra, a North Ogden native, prepped at Judge Memorial High School.
This will be McKenna's second time competing at nationals, as he also qualified in 2009, finishing 69th out of 250 runners.
The men's race is set for 10 a.m., with the women's race set for 11 a.m.