November 15, 2013

Women's cross country finishes 17th at NCAA Mountain Regionals

By PARKER COTTON

UNCBears.com

OGDEN, Utah – The Northern Colorado women's cross country team missed out on sending anybody to nationals after the NCAA Mountain Regional on Friday, but that doesn't mean the race was without positives.

Twenty teams spanning nine states took part in the race hosted by Weber State University, and the University of Colorado took the top spot. The Bears finished 17th and were led by sophomore Rikki Gonzales (Aurora, Colo.), who finished the six-kilometer race 40th overall in 21 minutes, 35.6 seconds.

Sophomore McKayla Gray (Loveland, Colo.) finished 65th overall after posting a time of 21:58.7. Juniors Ashley Atkin (Fleming, Colo.) and Stephanie Clark (Windsor, Colo.) finished with times of 22:51.6 and 22:53.9 for 108th and 109th place, respectively, and sophomore Caroline Braun (Denver, Colo.) rounded out the scoring for the Bears, finishing in 125th place with a time of 23:54.0. Freshman Molly Morrison (Greeley, Colo.) ran the course in 24:10.6 and finished 129th but was not factored into the team's score.

"It's a bittersweet performance," assistant coach John Gutierrez said. "Gray, Atkin and Clark all ran personal best times, and we moved up in our team finish from last year (18th), but at the same time, we still have improvements to make as an overall distance program."

The race's top four finishers — two from Colorado and two from the University of New Mexico — are the only ones to qualify for nationals. Everybody else must race until next year.

"Our conference and region continue to be one of the best in the country," Gutierrez said. "We will have to work hard as coaches and athletes to improve for the 2014 season, and we are looking forward to the challenge."

Adds head coach Amanda Schick: "I'm extremely happy with the overall development that Coach Gutierrez has accomplished with these women. I feel like my job is to look at the complete season and find ways that we can be more successful next year. We had a lot of growth, a lot of small pieces of success. Now my focus changes, and I'm truly hoping that this development follows us onto the track as we are about the open the indoor season."

Northern Colorado's indoor track season begins Dec. 6 at the Wyoming Power Meet in Laramie, Wyo.