The Idaho cross-country team hosts the Big Sky Championships Friday at the UI Golf Course.
The season saw repeated team wins and strong performances from veteran runners and newbies.
Idaho head coach Tim Cawley said the overall team dynamic stood out most.
“This team has gelled, on both sides, men and women, they have become a pretty close knit team maybe a little quicker than maybe I thought going into this year,” Cawley said. “You can really just see that kind of coming out. They train well together, they race well together, I think a lot of that is maybe why we see we’re maybe a little more ahead of where we were when the year started.”
Veteran runners typically lead the team, but this season, the big performances came from underclassmen.
“I think (the freshman) have contributed fantastically,” Cawley said. “I mean a lot of times you can look at a team and just see the freshman maturing, you know they’re not quite there yet. There is a lot of maturity at that sophomore and freshman level and I think its showing and is maybe why we are a little ahead of where we thought we might be.”
Cawley believes senior leadership helped develop the team physically and mentally.
“I think part of that (success) is from the leadership of the upperclassman we do have, Nathan (Stark), Santos (Vargas), Tim Delcourt, on the women’s side having Halie (Raudenbush), and Ally (Ginther) and Valerie (Mitchell), you kind of have that leadership there and I think it has helped kind of bring the maturity of some of those sophomores and freshman together.”
This team will look to redshirt freshman Kara Story and redshirt sophomore Sierra Speiker to lead the way for the women’s team. Story finished second and Speiker placed third in the Inland Empire Classic Oct. 15 in Lewiston.
On the men’s side, freshman Grayson Ollar looks to lead the team again. Ollar took fourth in Lewiston.
Cawley expects things to fall into place Friday.
“My expectations right now are they will go run as a team, compete hard, and when we are done we will see where our score stacks up,” said Cawley. “I think we have a good chance to score. I’m really expecting is for them to go represent Idaho well.”
The Vandals begin running 11 a.m. Friday at the UI Golf Course.
Meredith Spelbring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org