Written by  in Sports on Nov 19, 2010 5:00 / comments

A strong finish at the NCAA Regionals earned the Buffs women’s and men’s cross-country teams a spot at the NCAA Championship.

After coming in second at Regionals, the No.7 ranked men’s team qualified automatically for the Championship race, which takes place at the La Vern Gibson Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 22. The No.8 ranked women earned third at Regionals and were selected for an at-large bid into the race.

The women hope to outrun Texas Tech, the fourth-place team at the NCAA Championship last year. This season, the Red Raiders were first at the Big 12 Championship, outscoring Colorado by less than 10 points.

One of the men’s biggest competitors, Oklahoma State, won the NCAA Championship last year and was the only team that beat Colorado at the Big 12 Championship.

“Oklahoma State has a very talented team,” said Joe Bosshard, the men’s leading runner. “But a team that looks good on paper can end up blowing up. The No.1 ranked team last year [Stanford] finished 10th, so anything can happen.”

At last year’s NCAA Championship, No.1 Colorado runner and race favorite Jenny Barringer ended up in 163rd place after collapsing at the 3-kilometer mark.

“It was a wave,” Barringer said an interview with FloTrack after the race. “There was absolutely no fighting it.”

Barringer’s troubles that day extended to the rest of the team, said her teammates.

“She was our safety net – when she fell through, everything else fell through,” said Laura Tremblay, this year’s leading runner for the women’s team. The Colorado women ended up 20th out of 31 teams last year.

In the absence of such a clear frontrunner this season, Tremblay said more responsibility is placed on every runner on the varsity team.

“We are all more accountable,” Tremblay said. “Instead of one person leading the race, we all are.”

The NCAA Championship is not just a challenge because of the pressure. Although relatively flat, the course is crowded, and the field is extremely competitive.

“The course isn’t super challenging, but there are a lot of people, over 300,” said junior Andy Wacker, who finished just half a second behind Bosshard at Regionals.

Bosshard said his team will perform better than their current No.7 national ranking would suggest.

The men finished sixth last year. Bosshard said they would be satisfied with a fourth or fifth place finish this time around, but that they go into every race wanting to win the whole thing.

The top 40 runners in both the men’s and women’s races earn All-American honors. On the men’s side, both Bosshard and Wacker expect to score in the top 40, but Bosshard is setting the bar a little higher for himself.

“I wouldn’t be totally fulfilled with 38th or 39th,” Bosshard said. “I’m not going to hold back.”

Reflecting on her vast improvement since last year’s NCAA Championship, at which she came in 199th, Laura Tremblay hopes to score in the top 20 on Monday.

“This season I exceeded my expectations,” Tremblay said. “It’s been nice to keep it going.”

Despite the pressure, both the men’s and women’s teams said they are well prepared to race.

“We have everyone that was in our top six last year back, so we know what to expect,” Bosshard said.

Laura Tremblay described her team’s physical ability as “perfectly peaking.”

The NCAA Championship is the final race on the cross-country team’s roster. Most cross-country runners are also part of the track and field team, though, so their training does not end after this week.

“We’ll take off for about a week and a half, then start to build our mileage up again,” Tremblay said.

In January, the Buffs move indoors, and the competition season begins again on Jan. 22, 2011 at the Potts Indoor Invitational.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Caryn Maconi at Caryn.maconi.edu.