BOZEMAN, Mont. -- With a freshman leading the way, the Weber State women won the Big Sky Conference cross country championships on Saturday morning in Bozeman, Mont. Northern Arizona won the men's title.
Weber State won the title with 55 points. It is their third championship in a row and sixth conference title through the years.
Northern Arizona was second with 64 points, and Montana State was third with 101 points. Sacramento State (4th, 124 points), Southern Utah (5th, 139), Montana (6th, 177), Eastern Washington (7th, 181), Northern Colorado (8th, 193), Idaho State (9th, 224), Portland State (10th, 226) and North Dakota (11th, 232).
Freshman Summer Harper won the individual conference title with a time of 16:54.2.
Defending conference champion Amber Henry spent the whole regular season out with a foot injury and Saturday's race was her first race all season. That left the Wildcats with a lot of questions as they attempted to defend their title.
"I told our girls that someone from this team was going to win it," coach Paul Pilkington said, "I didn't know who it'd be and not having Amber (Henry) train or race leading up to this week, I didn't know how she'd hold up. So I told them all to put themselves in a position to win. Summer did that. They all did that. Summer ran a really smart race."
The Wildcats had four all-conference performers on the women's side, two freshmen, a sophomore and a senior. Harper and Hailey Ricks were the two freshmen and Jamie Stokes was the sophomore while Henry finished tenth as the senior. Ricks finished eighth with a time of 17:16.4 and Stokes placed sixth with a time of 17:15.4. Harper, the Orem native, broke away from the pack about halfway through the race when she passed an unsurprised Pilkington, seeing one of his freshman in the lead.
"With about a mile to go, Summer broke away with a Montana State runner, and ran by me," Pilkington said. "She smiled at me and I kind of looked at her and told her she could win it and that's when she let it go and really closed well down the stretch."
Heather Demorest of Montana State with 17:02.1, and Sacramento State's Rachel Mitchell was third with a time of 17:06.5.
In the men's races, Northern Arizona won the meet with 25 points. NAU won its seventh title in a row and 24th overall. Southern Utah was second with 39, and Montana State was third with 89 points. Following MSU was Weber State (4th, 114 points), Eastern Washington (5th, 137), Idaho State (6th, 176), Sacramento State (7th, 190), North Dakota (8th, 219), Montana (9th, 222), Portland State (10th, 249) and Northern Colorado (11th, 358).
Matt McElroy of Northern Arizona won the meet with a time of 24:32.19, NAU's Brian Shrader was second with a time of 24:32.28, Nathan Weitz of NAU took third with a time of 24:38.01 and Ryan Barrus of Southern Utah was fourth with a time of 24:38.04.
Weber State was led by Thomas Worob (8th, 24:59.4) and Trevor Ricks (10th, 25:00.8).
"We had about as good of a race as we could have with this team," Pilkington said. "Trevor (Ricks) and Tyler (Robinson) have been really sick and we are red-shirting Mike Hardy this year, so we knew it was going to be an uphill battle, I was very pleased with how the men ran."
Robinson was so sick that Pilkington pulled him out of the race. Robinson wanted to see if he could race, so the 'Cats started with six runners but finished with five.
"I'm very proud of everybody on this team," Pilkington said, "from Amber who could have very easily to said she wasn't going to race this weekend after her injury, to Amber Ward who was the fifth runner on our women's side to Tip (Worob) who ran the best race of his career."
The teams will compete next at the NCAA Regionals on Nov. 15, hosted by Weber State. The Wildcats will try to qualify for the NCAA meet.