Several Aggie cross country runners seized the opportunity to shine Friday afternoon in the Steve T. Reeder Memorial race.
With top runners having competed last week in Pennsylvania, this home meet for Utah State gave others a chance to run and try and earn a spot on the traveling team. Joining USU were teams from Montana Western, Westminster, Carroll College (Montana) and some runners from Weber State. There were also many unattached harriers that took on the Steve & Dona Reeder Cross Country Course.
In fact, the top individual finishers in both the women’s and men’s races were unattached. However, two of the top three ladies who ran unattached were actually Aggies.
Freshmen Mimi Miyazawa and Arianna Steiner finished first and third, respectively, with times of 18 minutes, 23.78 seconds and 18:32.68 on a 5K course. They may redshirt this season. USU head coach Artie Gulden is still trying to figure that out.
“We had Mimi and Arianna run unattached to see where they were at,” Gulden said. “They both ran really well. That was really good. ... Making the decision of who is going to Wisconsin next week is going to be difficult. One of the things about this year is we are really deep, both the men and the women.”
Finishing second among the women was Lily Nettesheim (18:31.16), who was also unattached. USU freshman Megan Terry was fourth in 18:37.91, leading a pack of Aggies — six in total who were in the top 11.
“In my previous races I’ve had a hard time with the middle third of the mile, so my coaches told me to make a goal and focus on that,” Terry said. “My goal was to stick with my team, and it went really well. ... It was a lot faster than I’ve run previously, so it was really good.”
USU won the team competition with ease, picking up 19 points. Carroll College was second at 66, followed by Montana Western (70) and Westminster (81).
On the men’s side, the Aggies were also tops as a team with 17 points. Westminster was second at 44, and Carroll College was third at 63. Weber State and Montana Western did not field full teams.
“I thought the races went really well, both the guys and the ladies,” Gulden said. “It’s sometimes tricky to compare times in cross country season because the course is different and the weather differs. I thought the conditions today were similar to the first meet, a little cooler. The course is hard. To see the times improve significantly is really good.”
The top three men were all unattached — in fact eight of the top 10 were not running for a specific school. William Handley nipped Aiden Carlson at the finish line to win the 7K, crossing in 21:05.68. Carlson was a second behind. The top Aggie was senior Sam Clausnitzer (21:27.26) in fifth.
“We wanted to stick together and run as a team to practice that, and then the last mile see where it goes,” Clausnitzer said. “I haven’t been having the best season so far, so this was a good race. I think a lot of guys felt like they had a good race.”
There was a good crowd of fans at the meet Friday, which didn’t go unnoticed. The Aggies also enjoyed running on their course in a competition for the second time this season. USU will get a third meet later this fall when it hosts the Mountain West Championships.
Miyazawa and Steiner finished second and third last fall in the 4A high school state cross country championships. Miyazawa ran for Mountain View, while Steiner ran for nearby Sky View. Those two were right up at the front for the whole race Friday, which helped Terry.
“They (Miyazawa and Steiner) were my goal and focus the whole time,” Terry said. “... I’m proud of how the team did.”
For Miyazawa, this was her first race since Dec. 1 of last year. A fractured femur has kept her out until Friday.
“I just wanted to prove to myself that I could come back,” Miyazawa said. “I’ve still got the fight in me. It was good to come back and race again and feel the adrenaline.”
The Aggie freshman jumped out to the lead from the start and was in front the whole time.
“It’s been a long rehab and hard,” Miyazawa said. “... I just wanted to see what I could do. I believed I could get up there and finish near the top. I just had to trust in it.”
Friday was also a chance for USU to have a dry run before hosting the conference championship on Nov. 1.
“The course was set up exactly how it is going to be for the Mountain West meet in a few weeks,” Gulden said. “To get another race on it was good. Those that didn’t race today will be working out on it tomorrow. Becoming as familiar with it as we can, hopefully that brings us some home course advantage.”