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USU cross-country: Utah State opens season by hosting Sagebrush Invitational on Saturday

Utah State's men's and women's cross-country teams officially begin their competition season on Saturday, Sept. 1, when the Aggies host the Sagebrush Invitational.

"Our objective is to see where we are at as a team and then progress our training over the next few weeks," said second-year USU head coach Artie Gulden. "We will not be at full strength as some of the girls who had long track seasons will not race. We will have a solid group and hopefully our group will be a little better than Utah's.

"It will be a harder effort for the guys than any of our workouts thus far, so we can see where they stand and then move forward to our next meet at BYU, which will be a great test."

Utah will bring its women's team to the Sagebrush Invitational, while the men will see some unattached people racing with no other teams competing. The men will be breaking up the group into USU White and USU Blue. The race will be held at the Steve and Dona Reeder Cross Country Course, located at 1498 N. 800 East.

"I'm very excited for this season," said senior Josie Givens. "We have a lot of potential with this group of girls. We have a lot of returners and freshmen that have put in a lot of work. The Sagebrush Invitational is always a fun meet, and it's fun to kick off the season at home. Getting to start at a familiar course with friends and family that can come is always nice."

The men's 7-kilometer race is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., with the women's 5-kilometer race following at 10:15 a.m.

"In my time here at Utah State, I have never seen our team put in as many miles over the summer than this team has," said junior Kody Gould. "We have an awesome bunch of guys returning from last year's team and an incredible group of freshmen and transfers that are determined to build off of our success from last year and really make a name for Utah State cross-country. This Saturday is especially exciting because it gives us a chance to see where we are at and begin our quest to be the best team Utah State has ever had."

Alyssa Snyder led the way for the Aggie women last season 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.

Snyder, a senior, 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 also welcomes back seniors Cierra Simmons, Presli Hutchison and Tylee Skinner, who all competed at the NCAA Championships.

While All-American Dillon 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.

This is the first of two meets that USU will host this season, as the Aggies will also hold the Steve T. Reeder Memorial race on Friday, Oct. 5.