NEW ORLEANS – The Air Force women’s cross country team earned its first-ever preseason nod from the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association this afternoon (Aug. 29), as the Falcons were listed 29th in the annual USTFCCCA Division I Women’s National Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The Falcons return a talented lineup that includes all but two of the runners that helped Air Force qualify to its first NCAA Division I Cross Country Championship meet last season. The returning roster, which features all-conference and all-region runners Carina Gillespie and Jaci Smith, also helped the Falcons post the highest regional finish (third) and best Mountain West finish (second) in program history during the 2016 season.
In addition, the men are receiving votes in the preseason poll. The Falcons, which return NCAA participant Andrew Johnston and all-conference runner Jacob Bilvado, tallied 15 points in the season’s debut poll to rank 34th in the overall standings. It is the third time in the last two years that both squads have earned a mention in the national coaches’ poll.
The Falcons’ roster also includes the addition of 16 freshmen (six women, 10 men) that combined for 14 state titles during their prep careers.
“One of our program goals is to always be ranked better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning,” Air Force head coach Ryan Cole said. “So, we’re excited about the season and working to be the team we believe we’re capable of being.”
Air Force opens the 2017 campaign on Friday (Sept 1), when it travels to Fort Collins for the annual Colorado State Invitational. Action is slated to begin at 6:00 p.m., on the fields around Hughes Stadium.