It's been a while since the Colorado Christian University cross country teams posed a threat in the wildly tough Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. National Champions and All-Americans dominate races in this conference, leaving the rest of the field scrambling for what's left.
So what does that mean for the athletes on this year's CCU teams? Solid returners and strong recruits have fans anticipating greatness and coaches in the conference taking notice. If all goes well, it'll be a thrilling ride this fall.
Leading the way in 2013 (in every sense of the term) is CCU sophomore Regan Mullen. Last year's RMAC Freshman of the Year, Mullen also received First Team All-America honors, and represented the United States at the NACAC Championships. Last week, Mullen was named to the RMAC Preseason All-Conference Team. It's an elite place to be for any runner, much less a sophomore.
Mullen is joined in her efforts by a hard-working group that brings new blood and fresh legs to competition. Mullen and fellow returner Jacquelyn Tramp lead a group of freshmen ready for a challenge.
In just his second year at the helm, Head Coach Josh Coon is encouraged by what he sees in his women's team. "Brooke, Elizabeth, Cambria and Abby are strong young additions and are strong runners. As a group, the ladies are fit and near ready."
"Regan's focus is on building a team," Coon continued. "As I've said before, she puts in the work, so I'm confident she will be fine racing and in the classroom. In serving as team captain this year, however, her focus has shifted to the progress of the team. She has been doing a great job as a leader so far."
Things look a bit different on the men's side, as a group of seven returners hope to build on a solid showing in 2012. Their efforts will be aided with the addition of some talented newcomers.
"On the guys' side, we have eight or nine runners that truly could compete for our top spot, and will most likely rotate this season. We haven't had that kind of depth in the past. Signing three freshman who've run sub 4:30 in the mile means they will certainly have a fast impact, but they will have to run like they aren't freshman for the team to move up. The guys are looking better but still have plenty of work to do."
Talent and enthusiasm have both squads eager to get things underway. After goal-setting this preseason, it seems the group is up to the challenge ahead of them.
"Our aim, on both the men's and women's side, is to end each day stronger than we started, focusing on the process. They've set some high goals and I've pushed them to map specifically how to get there, and focus on each step. We need to be honest about where we are but at the same time lay out the steps to move up toward the big goals."
"Most everyone had a solid summer of training. I think we will move up in the RMAC and South Central Region. It's hard to say at this point just how much but the work ethic and passion to improve is there. Mostly, I want to see them focus on the process each day, and learn to suffer well as a team. So far, we've had a strong start. This will be a fun team to coach."
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