Oct. 20, 2014

Ashley Thompson
athomp13@uccs.edu

The UCCS women’s cross country team won the team title and the men’s team took third overall at the Roadrunner Invitational in Denver on Oct. 4.

Five members of the men’s team placed in the top 26 runners. Senior Luke Dakin finished 19th overall.

“We didn’t compete at the level we’re capable at, but it was a learning experience,” Dakin said. “I’m excited to apply what we learned.”

Freshman Heather Bates won the individual title to lead the women. Bates, winner of the Rust Buster in her season debut, held off Metro State runner Breanna Hemming in the final 200 yards.

“The invitational was awesome. It was our first 6 kilometer race, and it felt really good,” she said. “It really came down to the final sprint.”

She finished with a time of 22 minutes and 35 seconds, one of the eight fastest times in meet history.

The course was deceptively difficult to run, according to both Dakin and Bates. Thick, wet grass presented a challenge but both teams had prepared for it.

“To prepare, we ran similar terrain,” said Dakin. “We learned that you have to be more conservative at the beginning of the race. It wears on you.”

Bates explained that the race was a good confidence booster, though the team’s performance may not have been perfect.

“We all went out a little fast at the beginning of the race,” she said.

She highlighted the mental strains distance running can have on competitors.

“It really came down to being tough and fighting it out. Running is about mental toughness,” Bates said.

Dakin knows the most important work is yet to come.

“The invitational wasn’t our focus, our coach is focusing on the later races. Also, our approach was not toward speed work,” said Dakin.

The team trains in two stages. The first focuses on a solid aerobic base and only after that is speed considered, gained by running short intense repetitions.

Both Dakin and Bates are hopeful for the crunch time of their seasons.

“Some of our best girls have been injured, which means we may have new runners by nationals,” said Bates. “We haven’t even reached our full potential yet.”

Dakin feels that this year’s team has potential comparable to previous teams.

“I feel like we are a nationals-qualifying caliber team,” he said. “We are capable of accomplishing big things.”

After concluding the regular season at the Fort Hays State Invitational in Hays, Kan. on Oct. 18, the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships are Nov. 8 in Gunnison, Colo.