|Coaches tab Idaho to repeat|
MOSCOW, Idaho –
Western Athletic Conference coaches picked Idaho’s women to claim a
second-straight women’s cross country title and tabbed the Vandal men second in
the pre-championship coaches poll released on Monday.
The Vandal women earned five first-place votes and earned 46
points to claim the top spot on the list. New Mexico State posted 43 points and
two first-place votes for second on the list, while Utah State was third with
the final first-place tab.
“It’s always nice to be recognized by the conference
coaches, but we know it’s going to be an extremely tough battle,” Idaho
director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps said. “New Mexico State
has a tough team, Utah State returns a lot of strong runners from last year and
Fresno State has run really well this year.”
Utah State was picked to claim the men’s title with five
votes and 25 points, while Idaho picked up one first-place pick and 20 points
to take second on the list in front of New Mexico State, which had 18.
“We’re hoping to finish a notch higher, but Utah State
certainly deserves that position,” Phipps said. “They’ve been conference
champions five of the last six years and they’ve been running very well. We
feel like we match up pretty well with Utah State, and if we have everyone
running their race on the same day, I feel like we’re going to be a tough team on
the men’s side.”
Idaho’s women enter Saturday’s WAC Championship meet looking
to defend their title from a year ago, and trying to win their fourth team
title in seven tries since joining the conference. The Vandal men have been
among the top teams in the conference since joining, but hope this is the
season they break through and claim their first conference crown since 1965.
Individually, Phipps says he expects a handful of Vandals to
be in title contention in both races. Idaho returns four Vandals who claimed
First-Team All-WAC honors at last year’s championship in seniors Lauren
Schaffer and Markus Geiger, junior Barry Britt and sophomore Hannah Kiser.
Geiger, Britt and senior newcomer Stephane Colle have posted
some of the WAC’s top times this season, while Kiser, a three-time WAC Athlete
of the Week this season, is undefeated against collegiate runners this year.
“On the men’s side, I think we have three runners who have
the ability to win an individual championship with their successes on the track
and on the courses so far this year,” Phipps said. “Hannah has had a great year
so far. She’ll have some strong competition in this meet, but I feel very
confident that she’s going to be in the hunt for the individual title.”
Phipps said that the team has had this meet circled since
outdoor track and field ended in June, and that he’s seen significant improvement
starting in the summer and continuing through the fall season.
“We had our individual meetings at the end of the last year,
and every single person said, ‘We’re going to do whatever it takes to win.’” Phipps
said. “They’ve had that mentality since day one. That’s a great attitude to
have, and I think it’s part of the reason why we’ve had so much success this
The Vandal women have won either a team or individual title
in every WAC season except 2009. The team claimed the 2005 crown – Idaho’s
first in the conference – then added another in 2007 and last year in 2010.
Senior Markus Geiger, the 2008 WAC Freshman of the Year,
will try to become Idaho’s first four-time First-Team All-WAC honoree in cross
country. He was the team’s top finisher at third overall last season following
back-to-back fourth-place finishes in 2008 and 2009.
Phipps said the youth movement on the women’s side dates
back to the spring 2011 track and field season, during which a number of
first-year Vandals broke out. Now sophomores, Kiser, Alycia Butterworth, Emily
Paradis and Holly Stanton have paced the team for most of the season so far.
“They’ve been through three conference championships
competing at the highest level, and I feel like that prepared them really well
for this year,” Phipps said. “That group of sophomores on the women’s side has
been a huge part of our team and they’ve really improved immensely in the last
The championship day starts with the men’s race at 11 a.m. (PDT), followed by the women’s race at 12 p.m. The awards ceremony will follow the women’s race.