The Weber State cross country team will host the 2013 Mountain Regional on Friday at Riverside Golf Course. The men will run a 10K race at noon and the women will begin their 6K race at 1:15 p.m. MT.
The women’s team is coming off its third consecutive Big Sky Conference championship, lead by Summer Harper who won the individual conference championship and Senior Amber Henry who is coming off a foot injury.
“It is very rewarding to go into (the conference meet) as the favorite and with a target on your back and still come out of it on top,” head coach Paul Pilkington said.
The women’s team has been a running short-handed almost all season. Henry is a two-time all-American but has been dealing with a foot injury all season. The first race that she ran in this season was the conference meet two weekends ago.
Henry was definitely less than one hundred percent in the conference meet but is getting healthier in preparation for the regional meet Friday.
“Amber finished third in the (regional) race last year,” Pilkington said, “and she is definitely more fit than she was in the conference meet.”
With Henry now healthy, however, the Cats lost another significant part of their team as they get ready for the regional.
Sophomore Kelsey Braithwaite will be out for the race due to illness, which will likely make it very difficult for the team to compete for the top two qualifying spots in the regional.
“Our goal will be to see if we can get a couple of individual runners to qualify for nationals,” Pilkington said.
If a runner is not on one of the two automatic qualifying teams from the regional, he or she will have to finish in the top-four among the other runners.
The men’s team is much less experienced but looks to grow and get better in the regional meet.
“We knew we were going to be a little down this year when we decided to redshirt some of the guys we did,” Pilkington said, speaking primarily of senior Mike Hardy.
The Cats will run a couple of freshmen who will be facing one of the toughest tests of their young careers.
“We’ve got two freshman who will be running double the distance that they are used to from high school,” Pilkington said. “So we want them to be able to have a solid race at ten thousand meters.”
The goal for the men is similar to the women. It is a very deep regional, with seven of the top thirty teams in the nation competing. Pilkington doesn’t anticipate the young team to compete to qualify for the NCAA meet, but he does have hope for a couple of the individual runners to qualify.
“Again, the goal will be to see if we can have some individual qualify (for the NCAA meet),” Pilkington said. “We want to see if we can get Tip (Thomas Worob) and Trevor (Ricks) qualified.”
Twenty teams will compete on the women’s side and seventeen on the men’s side. The meet is open to the public.