LOGAN, Utah - In the annual Mountain West cross country coaches' preseason poll, Utah State's men's team was picked tied for fourth with New Mexico with 28 points, as announced on Thursday by the conference office. It's the highest the Aggie men have been picked to finish since joining the league. USU's women's team was picked to finish fifth with 61 points, tying it's best preseason MW pick.
"Coaches' polls, any polls, are just people's opinions about things. What I like, is seeing what they do on the course," said veteran head coach Gregg Gensel. "I'm really excited about both our men's and women's teams this year. I think you'll see some good racing and some improvements over last year with what we did with our teams."
Colorado State, the 2016 MW runner-up, was picked first in the men's poll with 46 points and five first-place votes. Boise State took the remaining three first-place votes and took second in the poll with 45 points. Air Force was picked just ahead of USU and New Mexico with 36 points. Wyoming, San José State and Fresno State round out the poll with 20 points, 12 points and nine points, respectively.
On the women's side, New Mexico, the nine-time defending MW champions, nearly swept the first place votes, gathering 10 of the 11 for 100 points to be picked first. Boise State was picked second with the final remaining first place vote to earn 89 points. Air Force and Colorado State were picked ahead of the Aggies with 81 and 71 points, each. Nevada and Wyoming were picked sixth and seventh with 56 and 53 points, respectively. San José State and Fresno State were picked next with 33 and 25 points, while San Diego State and UNLV round out the preseason poll with 20 and 16 points, respectively.
The Aggie women return seven of the nine runners from last year's MW Championships, including junior Kashley Carter, who earned second-team all-conference honors last year by finishing eighth at the conference meet with a time of 20:45.20. Utah State also added a transfer from Montana State, Alyssa Snyder, who was recently ranked as the No. 25 women's runner in the nation by FloTrack. The strong returners led the team to recently receive votes in the first USTFCCCA poll, coming in at No. 33 nationally.
“I’m really excited," said junior Tavia Dutson, "We haven’t actually met as a team since finding the ranking out. This is the first team that I’ve been a part of that’s received any votes, so we’re really excited. One of the girls said ‘33rd is great, but we’re going to do better,’ so I think it’s a really good starting point and see if we can work our way up the rankings and show that we can race well."
The men's squad returns 10 runners from last season, highlighted by senior Dillon Maggard, who earned USU's third All-American honor last season when he finished 12th in the NCAA National Championship race with a time of 30:03.90. It was the best finish at the NCAA race in USU history. Utah State also returns the reigning MW Freshman of the Year, Luke Beattie.
The Aggies will open their season by hosting the Sagebrush Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Steve and Donna Reeder Cross Country Course. The men's race starts at 9:30 a.m., and the women follow at 10:15 a.m.
Utah State will also host the Steve T. Reeder Memorial on Friday, October 6, at 3:00 p.m., and the NCAA Mountain Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 10, at a time to be announced.
Fans can follow the Utah State track & field and cross country programs at twitter.com/USUTF_XC, on Facebook at USUTrack and on Instagram at instagram.com/USUTF_XC. Aggies fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
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