bleedCrimson.net will be conducting regular interviews with the New Mexico State cross country coaching staff as the Aggies enter their third season under head coach Orin Richburg. We spoke with assistant coach Paul Harkins about the men's and women's cross country squads and their performance at the Kachina Classic, the men's team earning a No. 15 ranking in the Mountain Region and their upcoming meet in Stillwater, Okla. in the Cowboy Jamboree
bleedCrimson.net: Your men's team earned a No. 15 ranking in the Mountain Region in the polls that were released this week.
Paul Harkins: The men are well improved team this year. I think it's deserving and I think it's something to build on for the rest of the season. I know we're capable of more than Top 15 but it's nice to be recognized in the region with a ranking like that.
bc.net: The Kachina Classic was held two weekends ago and your team had a strong performance there. Who are some of the kids that have run well for you early in the season?
PH: In the first three meets we've faced off with UTEP and New Mexico pretty much every time almost exclusively. We saw them again in the Kachina Classic. I think we're closing the gap on them some. We're now running at full strength. We had both of the Schultz girls in there on the women's side, Ian Ruybalid reasserted himself as our top guy and really showed his stuff at the Kachina Classic. The Schultz girls, both Courtney and Camille are both running great for us. Ingrid Flores is running well for us. Everybody is running well, everybody is positive, everybody is excited going forward. On the men's side UNM ran without a couple of their top guys but we were only seven points behind them. I know years past even if they ran without their top guys they would have beat us pretty badly. I just shows that we're closing the gap and it's exciting to be ranked in the region and it's exciting to be able to show the other teams what we're capable of as well.
bc.net: This weekend you head to Stillwater for the Cowboy Jamboree, what type of meet will it be and who are some of the teams you'll be seeing?
PH: This will be one of the biggest races we'll run besides the NCAA Regional meet this year. The level of competition is phenomenal. On the men's side you have Oklahoma State who is ranked No. 2. Northern Arizona who is ranked 5th. Tulsa is there who is ranked 11th nationally. We're racing some really really good teams and it's exciting to see that level of competition and it's exciting to get an opportunity to compete with those types of teams and I think it's going to be telling of our program and what we're capable of when we go to this meet. We expect them to run their best as always. I think we're capable of a Top 5 or 6 finish on the women's side and a Top 7 or 8 finish on the men's side. If we do that, based on who's going to be there I think it will definitely move both of our squads up in the rankings our region and it will show the rest of the conference that New Mexico State cross country is for real this year.
bc.net: This is one of two meets that you'll run before the WAC Championships at the end of October. What are some of the things you'll be working on before the Conference meet?
PH: One of the big things we're working on is confidence. Going to these meets we want to show our kids that they're capable of competing at this level. If they're capable of competing at this level, the meet we're going to this weekend is potentially higher than the WAC championship, it probably with all of the nationally ranked teams. If we can compete at this level then we can definitely compete in the WAC and on to the Regional level as well. That's where we want to take the program. I think the talent is there, it's just a matter of them gaining the confidence and believing they're capable of moving on to that level. The women are getting there and the men, they're young but they're definitely capable. This meet at Oklahoma State is going to be big for showing them how capable they are. It'll also be fun to go down to sea level and get some faster times, assuming it's not muddy. I ran there when I was in college and the only thing I remember is the Oklahoma clay that stuck to your shoes. If it's a dry course it'll be a lot faster than any course we've run on so far this year being at sea level. Confidence is going to be a huge thing that we're working on this weekend and the belief in how good they are. I know how good they are it's just a matter of them believing it.