The Division-II Nationals Championships for the Mountaineer Men’s and Women’s Cross Country (XC) teams is this Saturday, Nov. 20. Both squads will look to cap off solid seasons with a strong final showing.
Redshirt junior Katie Doucette has paced the women’s team all year, thrice earning Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) Runner of the Week accolades. Doucette was pleased with Western’s performance at Regionals in Lubbock, Texas on Nov. 12, where she led the team with a fifth place finish and a 6K time of 21:41.80. The women’s team landed in fourth place at regionals, just outside of automatic qualifying, while the men’s took fifth.
Nevertheless, both the women’s and the men’s teams were invited to join the field of 34 teams, which also features top individual runners from teams left out of the competition. Alexia Thiros, a graduate student on the women’s team, was able to rejoin the squad for regionals after battling injuries all season, placing 29th. Thiros was the third Mountaineer to finish behind Mountaineer freshman Allison Beasley (19th). For the men, redshirt senior Cade Michael led the team with a 12th place finish (30:39.60), followed by graduate student Michael Grabowski.
Doucette is looking forward to competing at the national stage, having dealt with truncated Track and Field and Cross Country seasons in 2019-20 and 2020-21. While she has qualified for three national championship meets (XC in 2019 and 2020 and the 2020 indoor track nationals), she has only been able to compete in one, the XC national championships that took place in Sacramento, California in 2019. “That’s my favorite memory from cross [country]…we finished fourth and it was a year where in the beginning we didn’t think we would make it to nationals,” recalled Doucette.
The cross country season can be grueling when intermixed with academic obligations and rigorous training, but the opportunity to get back on the national stage and make a statement is providing more than enough motivation to push Doucette through the end of a long season. “I feel like I’ve had experience racing at that [national] level, which helps a lot with nerves,” said Doucette, who is ready to leave it all on the course.
Doucette notes that the South Central Region Western competes in is quite tough. Within the region, the Mountaineer women face stiff competition from numerous Colorado schools, including perennial RMAC rivals Colorado State University Pueblo, Colorado School of Mines, and Adams State, all familiar teams that will also be making the trip to nationals. The men will also face off against Adams State and Mines at nationals.
The NCAA Championships for cross country will take place in Saint Leo, Florida, a suburb of Tampa Bay. The women’s 6K race will kick off at 6:30 a.m. Mountain time, followed by the men’s 10K race at 7:45 a.m. You can watch the races via the RMAC Network stream.
Thinking ahead, Doucette is still deciding if she will compete in the home indoor track and field meet coming up, the Western Colorado Open on Dec. 11, just a few short weeks after cross country’s national competition. The indoor track and field season, which runs early in the spring semester, will feature at least two more meets at the Mountaineer Fieldhouse: the Jan. 29 Mountaineer Open, and the Feb. 18 Western Colorado Alumni Open, before RMAC Championships Feb. 25 and 26, followed by NCAA Championships Mar. 10-12. After that, the outdoor season will commence, with Western’s home meets still to be announced.
Thankfully for the Mountaineers, Doucette plans to return for another year of competition in both cross country and track for the 2022-23 season.