Sep 5, 2013
The Air Force cross country team opens the 2013 season on Friday, Sept. 6, when it travels to Fort Collins, Colo., for the annual Colorado State Open at Hughes Stadium. Competing a 5K course in the fields around the Rams' football stadium, the Falcons begin action with the women's race at 6:00 p.m. (men run at 6:30 p.m.).
The Colorado State Open, a 5K season-opening race for both the men and women, will run around Hughes Stadium and its adjacent fields. Parking is located off of County Road 42 (Dixon Canyon Road). Seven Front Range programs - including Air Force, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State, Metro State, Northern Colorado, Western State and Wyoming - will compete at the meet.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Seniors Isaiah Bragg and Annette Eichenberger will serve as team captains for the 2013 season. The appointment of Bragg marks just the third time in the last decade that a single runner has served as captain for the men's team (Zach Nordahl, 2009; Jim Walmsley, 2011), while the women have a single captain for the fourth time in five years with the selection of Eichenberger.
STAYING CLOSE TO HOME
Three of Air Force's seven competitions this season are within the state of Colorado, including the Mountain West Cross Country Championships, which will be held at the Academy's Eisenhower Golf Course on Nov. 1. Other local meets for the Falcons include the season-opening Colorado State Open (Sept. 6) and the annual Rocky Mountain Shootout (Sept. 28).
LOOK WHO'S BACK
Air Force returns three all-conference selections from last season in first-team honoree Isaiah Bragg and second-team selections Riley Coates and Elliot Myers. Bragg is a two-time all-MW selection, having also earned second-team honors as a sophomore.
MEN PICKED SECOND IN PRESEASON POLL
The men were picked to finish second in the annual Mountain West Preseason Coaches' Poll. Air Force, which earned one first-place vote and 42 total points, placed just seven points behind four-time defending champion New Mexico (49 points). The women were picked to finish fourth in the annual preseason poll with 72 total points from the league coaches.
A WHOLE NEW LEAGUE
With the addition of two new schools, 2013 season marks the largest conference field in Mountain West history. The men will have eight teams - Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, New Mexico, San Jose State, Utah State and Wyoming - while the women's field will feature those teams plus Nevada, San Diego State and UNLV.
Five members of the cross country team have connections to other Air Force athletes. The Perkins twins (Charlie and Zach) both run cross country and track, while Stone Shoaf's twin brother Steel is a hurdler for the track team. Anna Olesinski's brother Marek is a junior on the men's basketball team, while Lindy Long's sister Lainie is a junior on the diving team. In addition, Gavin Owens is just one year removed from having a sibling on the cross country and track teams, as Gage graduated in 2013.
SOME LOCAL FLAVOR
Five Falcons hail from the state of Colorado, including Colorado Springs' native Hannah Everson. Matthieu Caldwell (Centennial), Grant Caswell (Denver), Daniel Lara (Loveland) and Samantha Skold (Evergreen) also call Colorado home.
WELCOME TO THE TEAM
The Falcons added 12 freshmen to the roster for the 2013 season, including six men and six women. The men's field includes Matthew Dorsey, Kyle Eller, Jason Engel, Grant Garst, Ryan Graf and Daniel Lara, while the newest women are Morgan Fagnant, Kirsten Linnartz, Lindy Long, Stephanie Robb, Taylor Schwenke and Samantha Skold
LEADING THE WAY
Air Force is under the direction of fifth-year head coach Juli Benson, the 2010 Mountain West Cross Country Coach of the Year and the 2013 Mountain Region Women's Indoor Track and Field Assistant Coach of the Year. The men have finished within the conference's top three each year, highlighted by runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2012. The women have placed fourth during each year of Benson's tenure, which is the program's best placement since 2003.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Rebecca Esselstein earned Capital One Academic All-America honors for Cross Country and Track and Field in 2013 ... the only sophomore on the 45-member women's squad. She was joined on the Academic All-American squad by 2013 graduates Matt Bell and Jeremy Drenckhahn.
FOLLOW THE FALCONS ON TWITTER
Fans of Air Force cross country can follow the team through @af_trackfield - the official Twitter account of the cross country and track and field teams.
The Falcons are off until Saturday, Sept. 28, when they travel to Boulder, Colo., for the 28th annual Rocky Mountain Shootout at the Buffalo Ranch Cross Country Course.