Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fall/Winter Cross Country Season

Sending a hill of mud and snow with the world's best - World Cross 2013
It's cold nasty and grey outside which means it's the traditional cross country racing season. Not to be confused with cross country or nordic skiing - though that's a helluva lot of fun too - I mean European-style off-season off-road racing, barreling across muddy meadows, leaping through creek crossings, up-and-over hills, dodging past rocks and trees, bounding through snow, precursor-to-trail-running cross country. Marvelous stuff.

It may not be widely known, but the cross teams built by Coach Franklin down the road in Albuquerque are now firmly established as top-caliber D-1 collegiate programs. The UNM women swept their 6th straight conference title in November, while the UNM men ran to their 5th straight conference championship. Both teams ranked as high as top ten in national polls for part of the year, with the women ultimately running 10th at NCAA Cross Nationals helped out by two All-American finishes up front (Sammy Silva 12th and Charlotte Arter 18th). The men finished 11th overall, with Luke Caldwell earning All-American honors in 10th place and two local standouts scoring for the Lobos - Pat Zacharias (Abq Academy) ran second man in 53rd, and Sean Stam (Rio Rancho High) ran fifth man in 157th.

UNM women rolling in the new turquoise unis at D-1 Nationals
On the prep level, northern New Mexico boasts the best high school cross teams in the state in Robbie and Kathy Hipwoods' boys and girls teams of Los Alamos High. The boys squad defended last year's title with only two returning runners which is just crazy-talk. The northern Rio Grande Valley is also home to both 3A championship teams (Bruce Gomez' Taos squads) the girls 1A championship team (Jemez Valley), three individual champions and two runners-up. New Mexico doesn't have a history of awarding all-district or all-state honors to individuals but the one outlet that covers these races, Milesplit-NM, makes the effort to select an all-state prep team for both boys and girls. Pretty solid.

Defending US cross champ Chris Derrick
Across the pond, the Euros just held their European Cross Championships this last weekend, the 20th running of the event. Nine time champion Sergiy Lebid of Ukraine was in the field as he has been for each of the previous 19 championships. The guy is a serious baller. BALLER. I like to root for Ireland, or the lone fellow from Belgium, or Montenegro in this race. I also like to root for mud and snow. There are no flat manicured golf courses out on the Euro cross circuit, these folks mix it up, crush hills, and get dirty.

Most importantly, the US Cross Champs are coming to the rocky mountains this year (and next), specifically Boulder, CO, which happens to be a short 6hr drive up the road. The races are scheduled for February 15th. Along with the very deep field of current US distance pros, expect a fleet of CU alums and past all-Americans to attend the championship in front of an adoring home crowd (The CU men won their fourth NCAA title this year). I'm told that Boulder landed this race as part of a larger effort to bid on hosting a future World Cross Championships event, which would be kinda really badass. *head explodes*

Related Posts:
 - US Men Capture Silver at World Cross
 - 2013 Corrida de los Locos - Race Report

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