Friday, July 26, 2013

NCAA XC Top 31 Countdown: Women's #28- Weber State

Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.

Weber State
Head Coach: Paul Pilkington (7th Season)
2012 National Finish- 17th

Key Returners from 2012
  • Amber Henry (Sr., 4:16.07, 9:43 3k Steeple)
  • Jamie Stokes (So., 4:28)
  • Kayla Blackford  (Sr., 35:13)
Impact Recruits/Transfers
  • Ellie Child (Fr., 4:58, 10:54 (alt. times))
  • Kelsey Braithwaite (Fr., 8th FL Finals '11)
  • Hailey Ricks (Fr., Wyoming State XC Champion)
  • Summer Harper (Fr., 10:45 3200m (alt. time), Foot Locker Finalist)

Season Preview

After the highest national finish in school history in 2012, Weber State returns looking to defend their Mountain Region Title and to get back to the big dance. Four of the top seven runners are returning to help get the Wildcats to Terre Haute. 

If Weber is to get back to the national championships a lot will ride on the shoulders of star returnee Amber Henry. Henry is coming off of a fantastic track season where she had very good PRs of 9:43 for the steeple and 4:16 for 1500m. Amber was an All-American in cross country in 2012 and in 2013 could find herself in the top 20. If Weber State is to better their nationals performance from 2012, the Wildcats must rely on Henry to do so. 

Although, Weber's 2-4 are not returning for this season, there are plenty of options to turn to for help solidifying their pack up front. Jamie Stokes is coming off of a solid freshman year where she ran well in cross and on the track and will be looked upon for assistance up front with Henry keeping their 1-5 spread as small as possible. Kayla Blackford has been up and down and will need to find some consistency for her to be a solid contributor for the Wildcats.

Some help can be found through a good recruiting class that Pilkington pulled in for 2013. Ellie Child, from perennial Utah powerhouse Davis High School, will be counted on to fill a spot in the teams top five. Having experience running with some of the best in the country, Child is one that can step right in and play an important role in Weber's success. 

Other members of this great recruiting class are: Summer Harper,a Foot Locker Finalist, who comes from a long line of great distance runners (brother and sister, Golden and Amber, were standouts), and Hailey Ricks (whose brother is on the team 3:45, 8:47 Steeple) who was the Wyoming State XC Champ. 

The biggest wildcard of the group is Kelsey Braithwaite, a former Foot Locker Finalist from 2011 who was hurt and redshirted 2012. If she can return to her high school form, she is capable of of a top 75 Nationals finish and to be Weber State's no. 2. 

With all of this in mind, the Mountain Region in 2013 is wide open, which give Weber State a good chance of returning to the National Championships three straight years. 

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