Cross-country blazes through Cedar City Invitational

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Being pitted against stronger opponents can make or break a team.

Packs of cross-country runners chased an orange utility vehicle at Southern Utah University’s Color Country Invitational Saturday. Held at Cedar Ridge golf course in Cedar City, two utility vehicles escorted the racers, one in front guiding the leaders and the other close behind the last runner, as the racers were blazing up and down the grassy slopes.

Dixie State University was the only attending university that participated as a division II school, while DSU’s competitors were all division I schools.

With this divide in competition ranking, it is less than surprising that both the DSU men’s and the DSU women’s cross-country teams came in last place.

“It is a fairly hilly course, combined with the altitude, and that makes a difference in performance,” head coach Justin Decker said. “However, time-wise the team did much better than last year when we were here.”

For Alyssa Haring, a freshman general studies major from Riverside, California, this race was tough. The women’s team ran 4-kilometers, and had to run two laps to get the required distance in.

“I felt the burn in my lungs, and by the second lap my legs were getting wobbly,” Haring said.

Haring finished first out of DSU’s women team, and took nineteenth place overall with a time of 15:25.50.

The men’s team ran a 6-kilometer race and hung together as they raced. Rodney Warr, a senior communication major from St. George, was the first of the DSU men’s team to cross the finish line. He said cross-country is a team-effort, even though it is raced individually.

“You have to rely on the training you’ve gotten and your teammates,” Warr said. “[Cross-country] may be an individual sport, but your team can really give you the boost you need as you’re coming in hard.”

Haring also attributed her comfortable transition to DSU to the cross-country teams.

“It was hard coming here from California and not knowing anyone at this school,” Haring said. “But being a part of the team made making friends so much easier.”

Decker said as the teams look forward to the move to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in the fall of 2018, they have to brainstorm how to deal with the altitude difference between St. George and the other RMAC-participating schools.

“[DSU] in the [Pacific West] conference was the school at the highest elevation,” Decker said. “Now we’re going to be basically the lowest in elevation now.”

Some of the solutions Decker said they were considering was training in Pine Valley and Cedar City if necessary.

The cross-country teams will be heading to Hilo, Hawaii, for their conference championship Oct. 22.