From The Coach: Mark Stanforth
Nov. 13, 2001
Saturday, Nov. 10, was a red letter day for the Air Force Academy cross country program. Our men's team finished fifth in the Mountain Region and qualified for a return trip to the NCAA championships, the first time since 1967-68 that an Academy team will compete at the championships in consecutive years.
And, if that is not enough to qualify Saturday as a red letter day, Brandess Pardue became the first Academy female in any sport to qualify for the NCAA Division I championships since our women moved to Division I in 1996. Brandess finished 23rd to lead our women to a seventh place regional finish, the highest finish our women have had in Division I regional competition.
Following last year's appearance at the NCAA meet, the number one goal for our men has been to return to the championships and improve upon last year's 16th place finish. Last Saturday's performance puts our team in a position to do just that. We are a much better team than we were a year ago but I think the quality of the competition has improved also. Our third place finish in the "Gold Race" at the Pre-NCAA meet at Furman, the site of the NCAA championships, was our best performance of the season so the course is a good one for us.
Our women wanted to improve upon last year's ninth place Mountain Region finish and they were able to do that, finishing a scant 5 points out of sixth. Brandess' performance, in addition to what it means to her individually, sends a clear signal to our women that we can compete for a national qualifying berth as a team next year. The next step is to get both the men's and women's teams to the NCAA championships in the same year. -- Mark Stanforth