Oct. 23, 2012
The Air Force cross country team opens its championship season this week with the 2012 Mountain West Cross Country Championships in Las Vegas, Nev. The Falcons' top runners will travel to Silver Bowl Sports Complex and Park to face their league opponents on Friday, Oct. 26. The first race is scheduled for 10 a.m. (PST).
The Mountain West Championships will take place at Silver Bowl Sports Complex and Park (6800 East Russell Road) in Las Vegas. The women's 6000-meter championship race will kick off the day at 10 a.m. (PST), while the men's 8000-meter final is slated for a 10:40 a.m. start. Admission is free to the public and parking is available in the complex's main parking lot.
All nine conference schools - Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV and Wyoming - field a women's team, while six programs - Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, New Mexico and Wyoming - feature a men's team. New Mexico is the only conference school listed in the USTFCCCA national rankings, as the Lobo women are ranked 12th and the men are ranked 17th.
Entering the conference championships, Air Force holds four of the 12 fastest 8K times in the Mountain West. Isaiah Bragg is currently ranked seventh in the MW, behind a career-best time of 24:11.3 that he achieved at the Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 13. Andrew Quallio (24:16.0, Rim Rock Classic), Jeremy Drenckhahn (24:19.8, Pre-Nationals) and Matt Bell (24:22.9, Rim Rock Classic) are ranked 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively. On the women's side, Jen Bremser is ranked sixth with a career-best 6K time of 20:59.8 (Rim Rock Classic). She is one of four Falcons listed among the top-25, as Melissa Fuerst (15th, 21:28.4), Anna Olesinski (24th, 21:48.1) and Rebecca Esselstein (25th, 21:49.2) recorded their season-best times at Pre-Nationals.
The men won the conference championship title in 2003 and have accounted for six second-place finishes and five additional third-place scores. The only time since 1999 that the Falcons have not placed within the top three was in 2002, when they finished fourth. The women have placed within the top half of the conference standings eight times within the last 13 years. Air Force placed third at the championship meet during each of the first five years competing within the Mountain West (1999-2003) and fourth during each of the last three (2009-11).
Since the Mountain West was formed in 1999, Air Force has seen 25 men combine for 40 all-conference selections, including 15 with first-team distinction. The 40 selections are the most among current MW squads and second all-time to BYU (61, from 1999-2010). Ben Payne is the Falcons' most-decorated all-conference selection, earning MW honors all four years (two first-team and two second-team). On the women's side, five Falcons have earned second-team all-MW accolades, including one during each of the last two seasons.
LAST YEAR AT THE MW CHAMPIONSHIPS
Backed by four all-conference selections, the men finished second at the 2011 MW Championships - missing the team title by just three points. Jeremy Drenckhahn matched the best finish ever by an Air Force runner, placing second in the individual standings. Drenckhahn was one of four all-conference selections for the Falcons, as he and Jim Walmsley (fifth) earned first-team distinction and Andrew Quallio (12th) and Isaiah Bragg (14th) claimed second-team honors. On the women's side, Melissa Fuerst accounted for the program's second-highest individual finish ever, as she placed ninth to garner all-MW second-team honors.
MAKING A STATEMENT
Jen Bremser recorded the best individual finish ever by an Air Force female at the prestigious Pre-Nationals Meet, as she finished 50th in the 265-runner field on Oct. 13. Bremser became just the second Falcon ever to finish within the top 125 at Pre-Nats, as she shattered the previous `best' finish of 78th that Brandess Pardue recorded in 2002. In addition, Melissa Fuerst also broke into the Pre-Nats' top 100, as she finished 88th - the third-best individual finish at that meet in program history.
SETTING A STANDARD
The women placed 18th out of 40 teams at Pre-Nationals on Oct. 13, marking the program's best-ever finish at the nationally-recognized meet. The team finish shattered its previous top finish of 27th at the 2004 meet, although that competition only included 32 teams. In addition to the top-100 finishes by Jen Bremser and Melissa Fuerst, Anna Olesinski (124th) and Rebecca Esselstein (127th) also finished within the top half of the 265-runner field.
BRAGG LEADS THE MEN AT PRE-NATS
Isaiah Bragg placed 64th among 272 runners to pace the men to a 17th-place finish in the team standings. Jeremy Drenckhahn (83rd) and Andrew Quallio (84th) finished within just 0:00.1 of one another to add a pair of top-100 finishes, while Matt Bell (107th) also placed within the top half of the field.
THE NEXT COURSE
Following a weekend off from competition, the Falcons return to action on Friday, Nov. 9, at the annual NCAA Mountain Region Championships in Fort Collins, Colo. The women's 6K race (12 p.m.) and the men's 10K race (1 p.m.) will take place at Collindale Golf Course.