bleedCrimson.net: How have your practices this past week and a half been going in preparation for the NCAA Regional meet in Salt Lake City?
Paul Harkins: It's been going well. It hasn't been difficult, we've done a few workouts here and there and it's definitely our tapering phase. We're definitely easing them down towards the end of the season. Everything we do is essentially just to keep them sharp. They've been handling every workout we've given them with relative ease and they look good, they look fresh and they look like they're ready to roll this weekend.
bc.net: On the men's coming off of the second place finish at the WAC Championships, how much extra excitement has there been for your team?
PH: I don't know if there's more excitement, there's just a different level of expectations. Last year we were hoping to beat Texas Tech and maybe get Top 15, we were 14th. This year they expect to be in the Top 10 and if they're not in the Top 10 they're probably going to be a little upset. I think we're capable of anywhere from 6th to 12th depending on how the day goes. UTEP is ranked 6th, Air Force is ranked 7th, we're ranked 8th, Utah State who we beat by one point is ranked 9th. It's a close, close region. Wyoming is 10h, they've rebounded from last year. Colorado State is right behind them.
The Mountain Region is a tough region with a lot of parity especially in those 6 - 12 teams right now. If it goes really, if we run like we're capable of doing we could be a 6th place team there. If we do that going into next year, that's going to be huge for the men's confidence. The goal right now is to beat Utah State again. If we could do that, I would really like to have a two-race winning streak going into next year over the 5-time WAC champions and if we can do that we'll be pretty excited and the men will have a lot of confidence going forward into next year and the spring.
bc.net: On the women's side, how have their preparations been going? I know they were a little disappointed coming off of their third place finish at the conference meet.
PH: Yeah they were a little bit. We had a couple of great individual performances but as a team we didn't really do everything we needed to do. Madelyn Stoltze is still fired up and still ready to go. She was a little banged up at the beginning of the year and it almost seems like a short season for her. I don't think she wants it to end at this point. I think she's ready to roll. Her workouts have been looking really good. She's running really well. The twins are running as good as they've always been. Chelsa's been solid, she's had a little bit of a foot issue after the WAC race but she's been working through that and I think she'll be ready to go. Sammie Hamilton, Sam Thompson and Brittany Hurtado, one of them will probably be our fourth or fifth girl and as a team it's going to come down to them and we're going to rely on them a little bit.
I know they're definitely capable of producing when they need to produce. They've been looking good. We're looking to rebound a little bit and catch Utah State. We were ninth last year, we're hoping we can be in the Top 10 again this year. We're capable of being a 7th or 8th place team. Things haven't all come into place like they did a year ago but the talent on this team is still very very good and they're still very capable of some great things. We're looking forward to Regionals to kind of bounce back from the WAC meet and then hopefully qualify one or two of the twins on to Nationals. That's the ultimate goal for them. The goal is to have some New Mexico State representation at the National championships. There's only been one girl in the history of the program to have done that and we have two this year who I think are capable, they're just going to have to run really well and work their tails off.
bc.net: What would you like to see out of the Regional meet for them to build on, for the girls heading into the indoor and outdoor track and field season and for the men, heading into next year?
PH: We want to battle. We want to see them just battle very fiercely. The men did it at the WAC meet and we want to see them repeat that same level of effort. We want the girls to really get together as a group and do that exact same thing. The twins are always solid, they're always going to be up there but we need that whole group to battle. Chelsa did it at the WAC meet and Sammie was solid as well. If we can battle with the ferocity that I know these kids are capable of, I know we're going to do good things and have their heads held high and have some confidence heading into the indoor and outdoor season for the women and into the spring non-championship segment for the men.
And for the men, if they do what they did at the WAC meet, they're going to have some confidence going into next fall.