ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Backed by three top-10 individual finishes -- and all five scoring runners placing within the top 20, the 17th-ranked Air Force men's cross country team captured runner-up honors at the Mountain West Championships, which were held this morning (Oct. 27) in Albuquerque. The men finished second to a team listed in the top-10 of the USTFCCCA standings, while the women placed fourth in their championship race, trailing only a trio of teams ranked among the nation's top 12.
Senior Andrew Johnston recorded his highest placement at a conference cross country meet, finishing fourth out of 65 runners in a time of 23:54.99. Johnston, who has finished within the top six during each of the last two MW Championship meets, was one of three Falcons to finish within the top 10. Junior Mickey Davey, competing in his first MW Championship, clocked a time of 24:09.60 to finish ninth, while classmate Jacob Bilvado finished 10th with a time of 24:13.68. Senior Jimmy Shipley and junior Noah Riley helped Air Force place all five of its scoring runners in the top 20, as they pair rounded out the scoring lineup in 17th (24:34.82) and 19th (24:37.16), respectively.
The men accounted for 59 points to finish second in the eight-team field -- marking the 11th time in 19 years that Air Force has finished among the conference's top two. Colorado State, ranked ninth in the national standings, won their first MW title with 31 points, while Falcons bettered Boise State (third, 64 points) by five points. No. 19 Utah State and New Mexico finished fourth (93) and fifth (97), respectively, while Wyoming (sixth, 179), San Jose State (seventh, 205) and Fresno State (eighth, 251) rounded out the overall team standings.
"Our men competed very well today," head coach Ryan Cole said. "Our top four did their job, as they have all fall, and our team continued to have different guys step up in our `five' spot. Noah had his best run in an AF uniform and it was great to see Andy close out his MW cross country career with his best individual finish."
Sophomore Patrick Sullivan paced a second quartet of Falcons that took part in today's 8K race. Sullivan clocked a time of 24:59.84 to finish 34th, while classmate Marshall Wheeler finished 37th in a time of 25:06.79. Junior Andrew Tankersley finished just three spots back (40th, 25:17.58) and senior Andrew Milliron rounded out the Falcons' full contingent with a 47th-place time of 25:44.96.
On the women's side, junior Jaci Smith captured her second top-10 finish in as many years, clocking a time of 21:12.27 to finish ninth in the 83-runner event. Smith was one of two top-20 finishers for the Falcons, as senior Carina Gillespie placed 19th with a time of 21:34.72. Freshman Mahala Norris clocked a time of 21:49.51 in her first conference championship meet, while senior Giulianna Vessa -- in her first cross country meet of the season -- placed 50th with a time of 22:35.92. Sophomore Lindsey Blanks rounded out the Falcons' list of scoring runners, as she placed 52nd with a time of 22:40.41.
The Falcons tallied 144 points to finish fourth in the 11-team field. New Mexico, ranked second in the nation, scored just 22 points to win their 10th-straight team title, while No. 8 Boise State and No. 12 Utah State finished second (50 points) and third (73), respectively. Air Force and San Jose State both registered 144 points, but the Falcons earned the fourth-place nod in the NCAA tie-breaking procedure, as three of Air Force's five scorers finished ahead of their counterpart from San Jose State. Nevada (145) finished just one point behind the Falcons and Spartans to finish sixth, while Colorado State (seventh, 179), Wyoming (eighth, 204), UNLV (ninth, 282) and Fresno State (10th, 309) rounded out the team finishes (San Diego State did not finish the competition, as only three of the five runners completed the course).
"The women got out a little excited and were caught up in a very fast, extremely high-end type of race, and that hurt our team outcome," Cole said. "But our women are extremely resilient and look forward to bouncing back at regionals."
Four other Falcons also completed the 6K course around the UNM North Golf Course. Senior Katie Burnham finished 59th with a time of 23:10.12, while freshman Maria Mettler finished just one spot back (60th, 23:12.56) during her first meet since the season-opener. Junior Shanna Burns and sophomore Teri Brady rounded out the Falcons' scoring finishers, as they placed 68th (23:41.72) and 70th (23:48.63), respectively.
The Falcons return to action on Friday, Nov. 10, when they travel to Logan, Utah, for the NCAA Mountain Regional at the Steve and Donna Reeder Cross Country Course.