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ISU Cross Country Shine in Texas

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Dart and Collin run stride for stride

Both the Men's and Women's teams excelled at the Arturo Barrios Invitational

COLLEGE STATION TEXAS.
Saturday, October 16

Surrounded by the early morning humidity and some 250 competitors, the ISU Men's Cross Country (XC) team toed the line at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. With such a large field of athletes, the pressure to start fast and gain a strong early position was palpable. As the starter raised his gun, a hushed silence momentarily fell across the course, before the gun sounded and the athletes powered away.

The Arturo Barrios Invitational is ISU's premier regular season meet. Owing to its flat terrain, sea-level altitude, and fierce competition, the meet represents an opportunity to record a fast time and build confidence before the post season. In an interview with KISU last week, ISU athlete Zak Montoya expressed his ambition to break the 24 minute 8000m barrier in Texas, a performance that would indicate unbelievable fitness.

As the race progressed, it was clear that Zak was a man on a mission. His lung-busting pace of 4:48 per mile meant that he was in contention at the very front of the field. Just behind Zak, his teammates Collin Dylla, Dart Kilgore, Eric Christen, and Brandon Walker, were all enjoying breakthrough performances as they made up ISU's scoring 5.

As Zak entered the painfully long finishing stretch, he could see the finish timer ticking on and his ambitions for a sub-24 minute finish slipping away. However, Zak wasn't going to give up easily. Drawing on his many thousands of miles of training, he mustered a powerful finish to cross the line in 12th position out of 263 finishers. But had he broken the elusive 24:00 minutes?

Hunched over just beyond the line, Zak wiped the sweat from his eyes and examined his watch ... it read 23 minutes, 56 second. He had done it, becoming the first ISU athlete to break 24:00 since Wyatt Diderickson's heroic performance in the 2018 Big Sky Conference meet. Behind Zak, Collin Dylla also powered home to a great time, completing the course in 24:32.

Overall, the ISU men scored 331 points, placing 12th out of 32 teams.

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Just 45 minutes after the men's start time, it was the women's turn. In the NCAA, the women compete over 6000m during the regular season.

Not to be outdone by the men, seven ISU women toed the starting line, all of them sharing the intention to put together a great team performance. The Bengals got out to a conservative start but packed well through the middle of the race.

At the 4000m split, Freshman Cassandra Vasquez led the ISU women, passing the time check in 38th position. Behind her, her teammates of Madi Kenyon, Laura Alicke, Katie Weeden, and Keely Wolf, were making up the scoring 5 positions.

In recent races, Katie Weeden has been ISU's top finisher. Katie took the overall victory at the Bengal Invite just a few weeks ago. However, in the heat of Texas, Katie struggled to demonstrate her impressive fitness of late, finding the last kilometer of the race to be very challenging.

In the final kilometer, Cassandra showcased her strength, moving through the field to finish in 32nd place, with a time of 21:28. Madi Kenyon (47th, 21:38), Laura Alicke (51st, 21:41) and Keely Wolf (70th, 22:00) made up ISU's top 4. Katie Weeden demonstrated her desire and team spirit, when finishing in 78th place, with a time of 22:27.

Overall, the women finished in a fabulous 8th place out of 33 teams. Both the Men's and the Women's teams are in great shape heading into the Big Sky Conference Championship, which is scheduled for October 30 in Portland, Ore.

The full results can be found here:
Men 8k (flashresults.com)
Women 6k (flashresults.com)