OGDEN -- The Weber State cross country teams will head to the NCAA Mountain Region Championships this Friday looking to advance to the NCAA Championships, and count the Wildcats among the favorites.
"Our goal is to be in the top two and get the automatic bid to the NCAAs," WSU coach Paul Pilkington said.
Friday's meet will be held in Fort Collins, Colo., hosted by Colorado State, with teams from the Big Sky, Big 12, Great West, Mountain West, Pac-12, WAC and West Coast conferends.
For teams in the Mountain region that are 3,000 feet above sea level, the race will be held at the Collindale Golf Course in Fort Collins. The women's race will be 6,000 meters and will begin at noon, with the men's 10K race to follow at 1 p.m.
The top two teams at each of the nine region championships across the nation will automatically advance to the NCAA Championships. Other at-large teams will also be included at the national meet following the region championships, based on performances against other teams. Also, individual runners can advance based on their finish.
The Weber State women's team is ranked 13th in the nation in the latest national polls and is ranked first the latest Mountain region poll.
The Wildcats will be one of the favorites to win the title this week and are coming off their second straight Big Sky Conference title, which they captured two weeks ago in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Junior Amber Henry repeated as Big Sky champion, capturing first place at the meet. Senior Sarah Callister was second and Taylor Thornley was third. Laken Hintze finished ninth and also won all-conference honors.
The Wildcats will be joined in the meet by nationally ranked teams New Mexico (17th) and Colorado (24th).
"New Mexico is right there with us and probably should be the favorite," said Pilkington, recently named Big Sky coach of the year. "If we race like we have been doing we should be OK. Individually, Amber and Sarah have both run extremely well all year and can run with anyone in the region. Like always, we need to get our whole team to contribute and we think they will."
On the men's side, the Wildcats finished second at the Big Sky championships. They enter this week's meet ranked ninth in the Mountain region. The meet will include four teams that are ranked in the top 18, including Colorado and BYU who are both in the top five in the nation.
Senior John Coyle (fifth), Mike Hardy (eighth) and Jason Nance (ninth) claimed all-conference honors and will lead the 'Cats.
"Coyle and Hardy will have a chance to qualify for the national meet but they will have to run very well," said Pilkington, in his sixth season at WSU.
The NCAA championships will be held Nov. 17 in Louisville, Kentucky.