The Mountain West conference often acts as a minor preview of how competitive the Mountain Regional Championships will be in two weeks time. This is an important meet for some teams because not only is a conference title on the line, but so are Kolas points which will help these squads potentially qualify for NCAA's.
Boise State and Utah State are the top two teams to watch this weekend in Logan, Utah. The Broncos and Aggies last competed against one another at Nuttycombe where Boise State came out on top, beating Utah State by 27 points. The Aggies will most likely be looking to reverse that outcome on Friday, but it won’t be easy.
Boise State is led by Ahmed Muhumed who last placed 23rd in Wisconsin. Muhumed has been closely followed by Miler Haller and Logan Rees, as there were only 17 seconds separating those three at Nuttycombe. If the Broncos want to win the team title, they will need their #4 and #5 runners to close the gap. Elijah Armstrong is very capable of finishing in the top 15 on Friday, he just needs to remain close to his teammates (of course, that's easier said than done).
Utah State will challenge the Broncos for the win. The Aggies have quietly run very well this season, posting a 1st place finish at Paul Short and a 14th place finish at Nuttycombe. At both meets, the men of Utah State have averaged an underrated 20 second spread between their top five scorers. That pack-running should prove to be extremely valuable come Friday if the firepower of other teams doesn't entirely dictate the scoring.
Luke Beattie and BYU graduate transfer Dallin Farnsworth are the team leaders and could vie for top five individual finishes if everything goes perfectly for them. Adam Hendrickson, James Withers, and Caleb Garnica aren't too far behind and at Nuttycombe, these three were well ahead of Boise State’s #5.
The Air Force men were the third Mountain West team to score at Nuttycombe which ended in a 21st place result. Alec Schrank and Will Kitzhaber are a solid duo up front for the team, finishing only three seconds apart in Wisconsin. Right behind them, runners 3-4-5 came across the line and kept their time spread at only 10 seconds.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can a team that is only separated by 10 seconds finish so far back in the team scoring? Well, the Falcons just don’t have a star individual up front who is capable of giving them much scoring potency. However, a 10 second spread could still help this team succeed in this uniquely structured field.
Wyoming had a breakout year last fall and finished the 2018 cross country season with a 12th place finish at NCAA's. But 2019? Well, that's been a different story.
A 13th place finish at Joe Piane and a 23rd place showing at Nuttycombe was not what we expected from Wyoming. Paul Roberts, who won the conference title last fall, was 25th at Joe Piane, but then ran to a 129th place finish at Nuttycombe. Instead, Henry Ewing led the team in Madison with a 65th place finish while Christopher Henry was 107th.
The Cowboys will need to regain their composure before Friday if they want to prove that 2018 was not just a fluke. If the season ended today, Wyoming would almost certainly not be going to Nationals.
It is important to note that whoever wins this conference title will earn some key Kolas points. Many of these top schools will compete against one another at the Mountain Regional Championships. Boise State, however, will go the West region.
Muhumed of Boise State appears to be the favorite heading into the Mountain West Championships. The star Bronco was the 10th place finisher at Bill Dellinger Invite in late September and was more recently 23rd at Nuttycombe. At both of those meets, Muhumed took down some big names which should only give him confidence moving forward.
Also for Boise State, Miler Haller is a great name to watch. Haller was 34th at Nuttycombe and was only six seconds behind Muhumed. Big things could happen for Haller this weekend if he puts all the right pieces together. He is historically very strong in the postseason and we don't expect that to change in 2019.
Utah State’s Luke Beattie was the third Mountain West individual across the line at Nuttycombe, only 10 seconds behind Haller. Beattie has run well this season thus far. At Paul Short, he finished 6th and then backed up that performance up with a respectable 49th place finish in Madison.
Dallin Farnsworth of Utah State, a graduate transfer from BYU, has acclimated well to the new location, team, and coaching philosophy. Farnsworth has been right behind Beattie this season and could slide up into the top five.
Paul Roberts, last year’s Mountain West champion, will have his work cut out for him in Logan, Utah this weekend. The 2019 season hasn’t gone smoothly for Roberts and he will need to dig himself out of this rutt to compete with the top guys mentioned above.
1. Boise State
2. Utah State
3. Air Force
5. Colorado State
1. Ahmed Muhumed (Boise State)
2. Miler Haller (Boise State)
3. Luke Beattie (Utah State)
4. Dallin Farnsworth (Utah State)
5. Christopher Henry (Wyoming)
6. Logan Rees (Boise State)
7. Paul Roberts (Wyoming)
8. Adam Hendrickson (Utah State)
9. Henry Ewing (Wyoming)
10. Forest Barton (Colorado State)
It is going to be Boise State vs Air Force vs New Mexico on the women's side this Friday. Boise State has an excellent scoring pack, Air Force has two solid low-sticks, and New Mexico has Kelati, Kurgat, and (hopefully) Adva Cohen. When they toe the line, we'll get to see which lineup structure leads to the most success.
The Broncos of Boise State put together a 7th place finish at Nuttycombe two weeks ago. Runners 1-2-3-4 had a spread of only 10 seconds and placed 40th (Clare O’Brien), 45th (Maxine Paholek), 51st (Olivia Johnson), and 55th (Yukino Parle). These four women create a very encouraging foundation for Boise State are are supported by respectable #5 and #6 options.
At the Bill Dellinger Invitational in late September, the Air Force women came out strong and posted a 3rd place finish, beating out a handful of nationally ranked teams (but also losing to the Broncos). That meet put the Falcons on the radar to potentially take down Boise State later in the season...but instead, they went on to beat New Mexico.
Two weeks ago, the Air Force Falcons were the second Mountain West team across the line at Nuttycombe, only 16 points behind Boise State and four points ahead of New Mexico. Mikayla Gallagher and Mahala Norris have proven to be two valuable front-runners for the Falcons and are providing key low points that we didn't initially expect to see from this team.
New Mexico will get a great addition to their team this weekend with the return of Adva Cohen. Cohen hasn’t competed yet this season because she was competing at the IAAF World Track Championships (steeplechase). Without Cohen, the Lobos do not have a complete enough top five for them to finish among the top teams in the country.
Weini Kelati is the favorite to win the individual title and it would be surprising if she didn’t. Even though she got beat by Wisconsin’s Alicia Monson at Nuttycombe, she has been untouchable in the Mountain West conference. Ednah Kurgat is a mainstay in the front pack and nothing should change on Friday.
The only concern for the Lobos is their #4 and #5 runners. New Mexico cannot compete with the likes of Boise State if Cohen doesn’t race because the latter portion of the Lobos' top five is simply too far back.
Kelati and Kurgat of New Mexico will control the race up front. Kelati is on a different level than the field and has shown that on numerous occasions. She is the reigning conference champion and should take the title once again. Kelati doesn’t need to run anything spectacular to win this race, she just needs to do what she has done all season.
On the other hand, Kurgat will need to regroup after her performance at Nuttycombe. She was with the top group through the first half of the race, but then fell off hard and only managed to finish 18th. Although 18th isn’t a bad showing in such a deep field, it was further back than one would expect for Kurgat. She might not be able to beat Kelati, but she should still finish 2nd in this race.
It is currently hard to gauge where Cohen is (in terms of fitness) if she races. Cohen hasn’t competed in an NCAA event since the 2019 Outdoor National Championships where she finished 4th in the steeplechase and was a DNF in the 5k. At the IAAF World Championships, Cohen didn’t qualify for the steeplechase final. If Cohen did not peak too early, she could be a threat for the top five this Friday.
Behind the New Mexico trio, expect to find the Air Force duo of Norris and Gallagher. Norris was 22nd at Nuttycombe and Gallagher followed in 29th. These two have had breakout seasons and will use the Mountain West meet as a final tune-up before competing in a tough Mountain region.
O’Brien of Boise State should be in the top 10 this weekend. A disappointing finish at Nuttycombe should be forgotten as O’Brien is capable of racing with the top women of Air Force. O’Brien’s teammate Maxine Paholek is one more runner to watch. She cracked the top 10 at this meet last year.
If you need a runner to watch for outside of New Mexico, Boise State, or Air Force, then be sure to keep an eye on San Jose State’s Jenny Sandoval. Sandoval has been quietly picking up top finishes at smaller meets this season such as a 2nd place finish at the Capital Cross Challenge and a 1st finish at the Santa Clara Bronco Invite. Sandoval could disrupt some of the scoring opportunities for the top teams in this meet.
1. Boise State
2. New Mexico
3. Air Force
4. Utah State
5. Colorado State
1. Weini Kelati (New Mexico)
2. Ednah Kurgat (New Mexico)
3. Mikayla Gallagher (Air Force)
4. Clare O’Brien (Boise State)
5. Mahala Norris (Air Force)
6. Adva Cohen (New Mexico)
7. Maxine Paholek (Boise State)
8. Yukino Parle (Boise State)
9. Jenny Sandoval (San Jose State)
10. Olivia Johnson (Boise State)