Youthful women’s cross country team to lean on national experience

Sept. 14, 2015

Taylor Garcia
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While most people only run when they are being chased, the girls on the UCCS cross country team have made it their goal to outrun and outwork their competition.

With two preseason All-RMAC runners in sophomores Heather Bates and Abby Topper, the team was picked third in the preseason conference poll, and 24th in the national preseason poll. Despite having qualified for the NCAA national championships in the past three years consecutively, there is still hunger in the team and the passion to win is evident.

“Since I was seven years old my focus has been on the next race or the next workout,” said Bates, who repeated as champion of the Rust Buster to start the season on Sept. 5. “I don’t even know what it would feel like to wake up in the morning and not have to run, or not have to think about the next competition.”

There are three upperclassmen, eight sophomores (two of whom are transfers) and six freshmen on this season’s team. But even though they are young, those returning sophomores have experience at the national championship.

Head coach Corey Kubatzky is thankful for this fact and knows he can count on their experience.

“This year’s team is special because the girls work well together. They look after each other and are more concerned about the team instead of individuals,” he said. “The student-athletes are high caliber students, with a team GPA of 3.45 last year, and high caliber athletes. They were conference champs last year and they are great people.”

Integrating the freshmen and transfers has become a responsibility of all the returners. Topper is a transfer from Colorado Christian University. For her, the team has brought her in with open arms, focusing on spending quality time together.

“We’re a very close team. Everyone sets an example for the freshmen by getting workouts done even when we are on our own for the day,” said Topper.

“Integrating the freshmen onto the team requires understanding that the adjustment from high school to college is difficult, but also the ability to tell them it is possible and that they can be successful,” said Bates.

The Mountain Lions will compete next on Sept. 19 at the Wheaton Gil Dodds Invitational in Warrenville, Ill. and the Colorado College Invitational at Monument Valley Park in Colorado Springs. On Oct. 3, they will travel to Denver’s Washington Park to compete in the Roadrunner Invitational.

“It’d be awesome for more people to come out and watch,” said Topper, “and even being more aware of our team and success.”