bleedCrimson.net: You guys had a pretty darn good day out there with the men finishing second, the women finishing third, the Schultz girls finishing 1st and second and five athletes earning All-WAC.
Paul Harkins:On the women's side with the Schultz girls going 1-2 and Chelsa going 7th we had three girls on the First Team All-WAC which was great. We need to work on our four and five a little bit but it was solid. Our 4/5, we've kind of had the gap issue all year long and it kind of continued today but the girls ran tough. Sammie Hamilton had a great race. She hadn't been in our top five all year and she really stepped up and ran tough for us coming in as our fifth girl and closing really well. It was really solid. Chelsa's had a foot that's been hurting her a little bit and she just went out there and it was an extremely gutsy performance. The Schultz girls they just totally showed themselves to be the class of the field. Those girls are tough. They went out right from the beginning led wire-to-wire and didn't look back once. It was an impressive performance by the Schultz girls.
The men's was probably one of the more exciting races I've ever seen as a cross country coach. They went out and established their position on the first loop. It was four 2,000 meter loops and they established themselves very well on the first loop and then Boise State really kind of charged up over the next two loops and we were rolling over the last 2,000 meters. Anthony Ellis came from quite a ways back to get up to 11th overall. Kevin Palmer ran extremely tough and then the pack, as it's happened all year long, was very tight and very tough and just couldn't quite make up enough ground on the Boise State guys to get that win but they were close. I honestly think if the race were 200 or 400 meter longer we could have won that thing. The men were moving so well over that last section.
It was a fantastic day for the men and the women. The coaching staff couldn't be any more proud of those guys right now. From where they've come four years ago to where they are now is pretty unbelievable. We're extremely excited for them.
bc.net: On the men's side heading into the meet there was maybe some hard feelings about where they were picked in the poll (5th). The team was able to go out there and get some vindication and really prove to the entire conference that you were a lot better than everybody thought you were.
PH: It was awesome. The men were running with a little chip on their shoulder but honestly thinking about it and thinking about their reaction to the polls, they were kind of upset about it but it really didn't bother them at all because they knew what they were capable of doing. They knew they were capable of fighting for a conference championship. That's what they had their goal set on the entire time. They can pick us fifth but we don't care. We're going to go out there and run for a conference championship. They did everything they could do today to do that. It was unbelievable.
We as coaches were near tears. It was an awesome performance that the men had. Yes, they had a little chip on their shoulders and I would say that now the conference knows for sure that you can't not look at us. We had five guys in the top 20 the entire race. We established ourselves from the beginning. It was kind of funny, the coaches just weren't looking for us. We may have surprised Utah State getting a one point victory over them, I know we surprised Boise State being as close to them as we were. I don't know what Idaho and Fresno State thought with them being ranked above us but it was very very exciting to see the men earn their place. They earned a lot of people's respect today and I think that was a really big thing for them.
We've been running in some really big races like Paul Short and Pre-Nats and we haven't really been top teams at those races so I think people were really underestimating us. It was definitely a very good feeling leaving the course today. Yes, we would have loved to have won and it was very very close. If we would have had two runners run a half second faster it would have close the gap to four points.
bc.net: Going back to what you said about the attitude of the men, taking it as a little bit of a slight but knowing that they could prove they were better than where they were picked. We've talked a lot over the past three years about one of the biggest things that the coaching staff has tried to instill in the men's and the women's teams is a belief that they're good teams.
PH: Definitely. I was yelling at the guys during the race, and I was talking to Terry [Williams] a little bit about that after the race, I'm sitting there yelling, "Come on! You guys can win it! You're right there!" Terry said afterwards, "You were screaming at us telling us we could win and we were like, we know we can win, you've been telling us that all year." That really kinda hit me as, these guys are listening. They're really believing in what we're saying, they're believing in what we're doing. That is definitely the biggest thing. The men really had that belief today that they could win it. I think the women kind of didn't believe as much. The Schultz girls obviously believe that they are going to go 1-2 in this meet every time they show up and that was the attitude they had right from the starting line. Chelsa believed she could be a top girl and that showed. But I think overall on the women's side there was still a little bit of fear and not 100 percent belief.
Meaghan Gregory: The women's side still needs to learn to come together as a team. That's the one thing the men did over the past two weeks was really come together as a team and everything they did was in the context of that team atmosphere and building each other up. The women aren't there, they don't have that synergy just yet and I think that affected them today.
bc.net: On that thought, you do have a lot of younger kids on the women's team. How much of that lack of "synergy" is just being a young team?
MG: Very much so. Our fifth girl today was a freshman our three people leading the way were sophomores. We have one junior in the mix whose a junior college transfer. This is new to all of the women. The women knew going into this year and going into this season that it's harder to repeat than the first time out. They knew they had their work cut out for them. Experience is the name of the game in this sport for sure.
bc.net: The Schultz sisters went 1-2 in the race for the second straight year and just really dominated the field again.
MG: Yeah, they dominated. They went right out from the start in the first 100 meters, they took the lead and they kept it the entire time. They meant business. There should have been no doubt in their mind that they could have gone 1-2 again. There really wasn't any doubt in the coaches' minds either.
bc.net: This finish this year and not really losing many seniors on either side has to set you up well for next season in what hopefully will be a sweep of the men's and women's titles.
MG: Yeah absolutely. As far as the women are concerned they are not happy at all with the fact that they were third this year after finishing first the year before. There's a fire under them for sure now. They know that every year the conference is going to get tougher and every year they're going to have to up their game a lot in order to stay in the mix, in order to continue winning.
As far as the men are concerned, absolutely. We knew it was going to be close today. We were on the cusp of winning. We honestly felt going into today we could have been a conference championship team. We had that confidence going in. Last year they saw the women win, the men were fourth, they were incredibly disappointed with their fourth place finish. And not that they're hugely disappointed with today's finish but they want to win and they want it bad. They're hungry and they're not going to settle for anything less next year.
bc.net: On the men's side, you've gone the meet the last four years and each year you've improved and not just by a little bit. The team has improved leaps and bounds every year.
MG: Yeah, the fact that we don't have men's track and field either is a huge feather in our men's hat based on the fact that they have one season to get it done. They're competing against all these guys that compete literally all year round, throughout the indoor season, throughout the outdoor season and it just goes to show how hard our guys are willing to work and how bad they want it and how talented they are being able to pull out a second place finish.
PH: The goal for us since we got here was to get conference championships and then move the teams on beyond the conference level and on to the regional and national level as well. Having won one last year on the women's side we knew what it took and knew how to do it and the men saw that and I think watching the women win last year was a huge motivator for the men as well. That's been the goal. The guys are hungry. This gave them a small taste of success today but it only just whet their appetite. They are still very very hungry, they're already looking forward to next year. The men want to win and they are very hungry and they are motivated to work twice as hard this spring and twice as hard all summer long to get back and assure themselves of a conference championship.
bc.net: You head into the regional meet in a couple weeks. How much confidence does this give you on both the men's and women's side heading into that meet?
MG: As far as the men's team is concerned, coming out we have been talking all year about a 10th place finish at regionals. That's what we'll be shooting for there. Even with our top guy out, Ian Ruybalid, I still think with the tight pack we have, the men were all within 25 seconds of each other, as long as that pack is further up in the group, as long as they're within the top 50 or top 60 of the regional level competition, Top 10 is well within their grasp.
As far as our women are concerned, we were ninth last year we're going to have to move to get ninth again. We have to close our one through five gap on the women's side.
bc.net: What do you think you freshmen on the women's side took away from today's performance and their first championship meet?
MG: I think Sammie Hamilton had a fantastic race today. Her goal this year was to be under 19 minutes in a 5K and she was able to do that today under pretty adverse conditions. It was a slow course, really hilly, a lot of ups and downs, wood chips on the ground, the course was wet and it was freezing. Our girls have not run in weather like this all year and it was a real shock this morning. It was real windy, it was bitter out there this morning. So for her to step up and be our number five runner today it was fantastic.
As far as Jenna [Padilla] and Christy [Barela] are concerned, they're still making that transition, still learning how to run at the D1 level and that's all we expect of them. We don't expect our freshmen to come in and be in our top five or even our top seven. We expect them to come in, make that transition to the D1 level, get their feet wet and learn what it's all about so that next year they're ready to go.
bc.net: One of the great things about the All-Conference teams in cross country is that they're earned based on how an athlete finishes championship meet. You were able to have five people on the All-WAC teams.
MG: That's a great honor. I was so proud of the kids and with Jonah Ruybalid, he was 16th last year and 15th this year just missing out on Second Team All-WAC. I know those three guys who were 15th, 16th and 17th, they're hungry for All-WAC next year.
The two men who were All-WAC, the three women who were All-WAC it just goes to show that we are a talented team and we work our butts off. They deserve all the accolades they get. These kids are literally 365 days of the year out there working their butts off.