LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Utah State's men's and women's cross country teams are set to make their program debuts at the NCAA Cross Country National Championships on Saturday, Nov. 18.
After sending numerous individuals to the championship race in the past, USU's teams are making their first appearances.
"It's pretty special. The fact that we've never had a team come here and to have both teams come together is pretty good," said interim head cross country coach Artie Gulden. "When people come as individuals, especially for Dillon (Maggard) last year, it's a departure from what he was normally used to. It was different for him, but he adjusted to it well and performed well, but it certainly wasn't the norm.
"To have the teams here, it's exciting, and it's good that it's the norm for them. Obviously, there is going to be excitement for the national championships, but there is going to be a little bit of normalcy in the fact that they're all together and have their same routine."
The championship races are hosted by the University of Louisville at the E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park with the women's 6-kilometer race beginning at 7 a.m. (MT), and the men's 10-kilometer race following at 8 a.m. (MT).
Utah State will join 30 other teams in each race, comprised of 18 automatic qualifiers that were the top-two finishers in their region, along with 13 at-large selections.
Additionally, 38 runners qualified individually for the national championships.
For the 19th-ranked Aggie women, junior Alyssa Snyder has had a season to remember. The Montana State transfer was named first-team all-Mountain West, all-region and has three race wins to her name. She was joined in her all-region honors by senior Tylee Skinner and junior Kashley Carter.
"It's really awesome, I don't know if there are words to really describe it," Skinner said. "I don't think I ever would have imagined doing this my freshman year. But with going on a mission and changes that have happened with the team, I think it's so awesome that I'm here right now and we're accomplishing this."
As for the No. 27 USU men's squad, Maggard, a senior, will provide championship experience, having earned All-American honors last season as an individual runner at the championships. Like Snyder, Maggard earned first-team all-MW honors, as well as all-region accolades this season.
"It feels great to be here with the team," Maggard said. "We put in a lot of work between the men's and women's teams. All summer and all fall, this has been the main goal to come here, qualify and be the first, so it feels great."
Last year, Northern Arizona won the men's race and looks to defend its title as it heads into the championships as the No. 1 seed in the nation. For the women, No. 6 Oregon will look to repeat as champions, but has No. 1 Colorado and No. 2 New Mexico ahead of it in the rankings.
Fans can watch the action live with a subscription to FloTrack at http://bit.ly/2jqGr7D, while live results will be posted on the NCAA cross country page at http://on.ncaa.com/2jsr0eR.
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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