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A second straight conference title is on the line for Utah State’s men’s cross country program when it competes at the Mountain West Championships on Friday morning in North Las Vegas.

The meet will take place at Craig Ranch Regional Park, with the women showcasing their talents at 10 a.m. and the men an hour later. The men will run a 10K and the women a 6K.

The Aggie men have a legitimate chance at defending their title, which was captured on their home course in the fall of 2019. The 2020 cross country season was pushed to January of this year and the abbreviated season will conclude March 15 at the NCAA Championships in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The latest national rankings were released Wednesday and the Aggie men are tied for the No. 19 spot with Indiana. USU leads the way among Mountain West programs as Air Force is ranked 23rd, while Colorado State and Boise State are receiving votes for the top 30.

Additionally, USU is fourth in the latest Mountain Region Poll. Other MW programs in the top 10 are AFA (sixth), CSU (eighth), Wyoming (ninth) and New Mexico (10th). Boise State is sixth in the West Region Poll.

Likewise, the Mountain West has some talented teams on the women’s side as New Mexico is ranked third nationally — first in the Mountain Region Poll — while Boise State is 11th. CSU is fifth in the Mountain Region Poll, followed by fellow Mountain West programs USU (seventh), AFA (12th), Wyoming (13th) and Nevada (14th). BSU is second in the West Region Poll.

The Lady Aggies finished fifth out of 11 teams at the 2019 Mountain West Championships.

Utah State’s top harriers have only competed twice this winter — on Jan. 23 in St. George, and on Feb. 5 in Florida — although the program did have some individuals that raced in Las Vegas on Feb. 19. The Aggie men and women won the Dixie State Invitational, while the men finished fourth out of 20 teams at the Florida State Winter Classic, and the women placed ninth out of 18.

USU’s men’s squad beat Southern Utah at both meets and the Thunderbirds are currently ranked 22nd nationally. The Aggie men also outpointed Wake Forest in Florida. The Demon Deacons are 21st in the latest national poll.

Leading the charge for the Aggie men is Camren Todd, who will be one of the favorites at the MW Championships. The sophomore was triumphant at the Dixie State Invitational and finished 11th at the FSU Winter Classic.

Junior Caleb Garnica, senior Haydon Cooper and sophomore Spencer Nelson have been the other top runners for the Aggie men this winter. Nelson is a former Mountain Crest High standout. All three of those athletes finished in the top 10 at the invitational in St. George and were among the team’s top four competitors in Florida.

As for the Aggie women, they have been led by different athletes at both meets. Junior Mica Rivera placed second in St. George, while senior Katie Haviland was fourth. Haviland finished 19th in Florida, while Rivera was 37th.

The Lady Aggies outpointed then-No. 29 Boston College at the FSU Winter Classic. USU also defeated then-No. 30 Cal Baptist at the Dixie State Invite.

OTHER USU SPORTS

The soccer and volleyball programs are also in action this week.

USU’s soccer team will square off against Wyoming in the season opener for both programs on Friday at 1 p.m. in Laramie. The Aggies will then travel to Fort Collins for a showdown against CSU on Sunday at noon.

The Aggies went 8-10-1 during the 2019 campaign, including 3-7-1 in MW play.

Meanwhile, USU’s volleyball squad (1-5, 1-5 MW) will host UNLV (6-0, 6-0) in a series, starting Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Wayne Estes Center. The two teams will play again Saturday at 1 p.m.

The condensed volleyball and soccer seasons are limited to conference-only matches for the Aggies.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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