Utah State’s women’s cross-country team is ranked No. 10 in the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Preseason Coaches’ Poll, announced Tuesday by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
The Aggies, who finished the 2017 campaign ranked No. 14 in the country, earned 218 points in the preseason poll.
“Preseason rankings often reflect where teams finished the previous year and what they look like on paper,” said second-year USU head cross-country coach Artie Gulden. “Our women are honored to be ranked 10th but realize they have a lot of work to do to be where they want come November. Their focus is to improve and get better every week.”
Mountain West rival New Mexico, the defending cross-country national champions, sit atop the preseason poll. The Lobos were unanimously selected as the top team in the nation by garnering 330 points and all 11 first-place votes.
The only other Mountain West institution joining Utah State and New Mexico in the top 10 is Boise State, which was picked fifth with 285 points. The Broncos finished 2017 ranked sixth.
BYU is the only other team from the Beehive State to be ranked in the women’s preseason poll as the Cougars are No. 16 with 168 points.
On the men’s side, the Aggies were just outside of the top 30, coming in at No. 32 with 21 points. Two-time defending national champion Northern Arizona is the unanimous top pick with 330 points and all 11 first-place votes.
“For the men, the rankings certainly reflect the loss of Dillon Maggard, who graduated,” Gulden said. “But, the team believes they are better than the preseason ranking and look forward to the challenge of becoming a better team than last year.”
Other MW schools to make the top 30 on the men’s side include No. 9 Colorado State (222 points), No. 16 Air Force (155 points) and No. 24 Boise State (86 points). Furthermore, in-state rivals BYU (312 points) and Southern Utah (163 points) come in at Nos. 2 and 14, respectively.
Both of Utah State’s cross-country teams found themselves in the top 10 of the 2018 NCAA Division I Cross Country Regional Rankings, which were released Monday by the USTFCCCA. The Aggie women were tabbed third in the Mountain Region, tying the team’s highest ranking in the USTFCCCA regional ranking, which began in 2010. On the men’s side, USU was tabbed seventh, which also matches the team’s highest ranking in the poll – the Aggies were ranked seventh all season long in 2017.
In the annual MW cross-country coaches’ preseason poll, the USU women were picked third with 78 points – the highest the Aggies have been picked to finish since joining the league. USU’s men’s team was picked to finish fourth with 31 points.
The men and women are coming off their best seasons in program history, as both advanced to the 2017 NCAA Division I Championships for the first time.
Ranked 19th in the nation heading into the championships, the Aggie women finished 14th with 395 points in the 6-kilometer race. On the men’s side, Utah State, which was ranked No. 27, despite having three runners go down early in the 10K race, took 27th with 603 points.
Alyssa Snyder led the way for the Aggie women as she placed 25th with a time of 20:03.39 to earn All-American honors. She became just the second Utah State runner on the women’s side to garner All-American honors, joining Alissa Nicodemus, who placed 14th at the 1992 national championships.
Dillon Maggard capped his stellar cross-country career by placing sixth with a personal-best 10K time of 29:16.20 to earn All-American accolades. He became the first two-time All-American in Utah State cross-country history, as he placed 12th with a time of 30:03.09 at the 2016 national championships.
Senior Snyder headlines the returnees on the women’s side. Not only did she earn first-team All-American honors, but she also garnered all-region honors by placing 17th at the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships (20:38.2) and first-team all-Mountain West honors after finishing sixth at the league championships (20:55.40).
Utah State will also welcome back seniors Kashley Carter, Cierra Simmons, Presli Hutchison and Tylee Skinner, who competed at the NCAA Championships.
While Maggard is gone on the men’s side, the Aggies return four runners who competed at the NCAA Championships in juniors Luke Beattie, Adam Hendrickson, J.D. Thorne and James Withers. Of that quartet, Withers was the top finisher at the NCAA Championships, placing 149th with a time of 31:07.14.
The Aggies open the season by hosting the Sagebrush Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Steve and Dona Reeder Cross Country Course. The men’s race starts at 9:30 a.m., and the women will follow at 10:15 a.m.