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State's runners poised for finals

Conference, independent cross country set

The 2004 Mountain West Conference men's and women's cross country championship races will be Saturday at Morley Field in San Diego. The women's 6K race begins at 8 a.m. MDT with the men's 8K race at 9 a.m.

The BYU women, runners-up in last year's NCAA championship race and back-to-back national champions the previous two years, have won five consecutive Mountain West championships. The Cougars enter this race as the No. 12 team in the country. BYU returns 2003 MWC championship runner-up Laura Turner. Last week at Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., Turner finished fourth overall (20:30.7), leading the Cougars to a fifth-place finish.

"Laura right now is running really strong," coach Patrick Shane said. "She has the best conference time this year in both the 5,000m and the 6,000m. She'll definitely challenge for the overall title."

Colorado State (No. 24) is the only other nationally ranked team in the field.

The men's race will feature four top-25 teams in the field. Defending conference champion Air Force (No. 12), four-time MWC champion BYU (No. 10), No. 17 Colorado State and No. 23 New Mexico will vie for the 2003 championship. BYU's Matt Adams, Bryan Lindsay and Nathan Robison were all top-10 finishers in last year's conference race, and will compete again this year.

The BYU men finished fourth overall at Pre-Nationals. Former Provo High runner Josh Rohatinsky (24:06.6) led the Cougars in that race.

The Utah women's team finished fourth in last year's conference race and is coming off a 27th-place finish out of 85 teams at Pre-Nationals. Junior Elise Greenwood (21:28.3) led the team with a 44th-place finish. Utah has never finished higher than fourth at the MWC championships.

The Utah men earned a 24th-place finish at Pre-Nationals. Senior Delfino Arevalo led the way with a 63rd-place finish (24:53.2).

"It's going to be an exciting race for the Utes," coach Brian Appell said. "The women are hoping to upset and surprise some people and run in the top two or three. If they run to their capability, they could do it. On the men's side, the race is packed with national-caliber teams. We could run extremely well and finish fifth. Hopefully, we can upset some teams by putting our pack in the middle of some of the more vulnerable teams."

UVSC: Utah Valley State's cross country teams conclude their season on Saturday in Texas at the Independent Championships. The Wolverine men and women runners will race against 10 other schools.

"It's time to finish things off on a good note," coach Scott Houle said. "We feel like we can do well. We're excited to see how our top individuals fare against top competition. We definitely want to be in the top three. But one or two is where we should finish."

In Utah Valley's last meet at Southern Utah, every women runner recorded personal bests. Amanda Olsen has led the Wolverine runners all season by finishing first or second in every meet this year, At the SUU Invitational, she finished with a first-place time of 17:02.46.

BIG SKY: Weber State's women's cross country team travels to Bozeman, Mont., for the Big Sky Conference women's championship. The three-mile race begins at 11:45 a.m. MDT at the Bridger Creek Golf Course. Weber State has won three team championships (1993, 1997, 2000) and has finished second 10 times. In 21 of the 23 championships held, the Wildcats have placed fourth or better.

BIG WEST: Utah State's cross country teams will compete at the Big West Conference championships on Saturday at the UC-Riverside Agriculture Operations Course in Riverside, Calif. The women will run a 6K race at 9 a.m. (mountain), while the men will follow with an 8K race at 10 a.m. At last year's championships, the men finished fifth, marking only the second time in the last 12 years they have been out of the top two spots. Current Aggies who competed in last year's league championships include David Danley (ninth), Clark Bryner (16th) and Trevor Ball (39th). The USU women's team finished second at last year's Big West championship with 66 points. This was the women's best finish since 1998. Current Aggies who competed at last year's Big West Championships are Lida Ripplinger (sixth), Ashley Johnson (eighth) and Tiffany Strickland (29th).