By Bruce Garlinghouse Staff Writer email@example.com
After their 32nd consecutive WCC Cross Country Championship and sixth finish in the nation's top 20 in the last six years, the Pilots find themselves with a No. 10 preseason ranking.
Despite dominating the conference for the past three decades, the Pilots have been pegged to finish second behind conference newcomer Brigham Young University.
"Its kind of a slap in the face but it gives you extra motivation," senior All-American Jared Basset said.
Although the team returns three All-Americans, including Basset, senior Alfred Kimbuchi and junior Trevor Dunbar, they will be relying heavily upon young talent.
But Head Coach Rob Connor thinks this year poses a chance as good as any to finish at No. 1.
"This year I think we're contending for a national championship, although we are a little thin," Connor said.
While not always able to attract talent like the nation's other cross country powerhouses such as Stanford, Colorado and No. 1 Oklahoma State, sophomore Steve Kearsh cited a good work ethic as the reason they have been able to compete.
"Coach always says no team will out-train us. We may be out-talented but if we out-train everyone then anything is possible," Kearsh said.
While young, the Pilots have plenty of talent.
Junior Joash Osoro and sophomore Chase Caulkins will be key runners this year. Last season Osoro won the Pier Point Invitational and Caulkins finished 71st in the National Championship last year.
Two redshirt freshmen, David Perry and Scott Fauble, will also be relied upon heavily.
Perry has two top 10 finishes under his belt after redshirting his freshman year, finishing 10th at the NACAC Championships in Spain and 8th at the Junior National Championships in California last February.
Fauble is a Colorado state champion and was the Colorado Gatorade and Milesplit Runner of the year.
Also expected to make some noise is freshman Woody Kincaid, who finished 11th at the Footlocker cross-country nationals last year.
"Woody might be the most natural talent in the nation this year," UP coach Rob Conner said in an interview with Track Focus, a running website. "To jump from 11th at state to 11th in the nation in one year is amazing, especially given his mileage."
The Pilots open the season with the Pier Point Invitational this Saturday in Portland.
The last two weeks have been filled with high heat and the trend remains the same for Saturday as the temperature is expected to reach 93 degrees.
"We're definitely not used to it and it's not ideal conditions. It is all local teams and it won't be a big deal. Everyone is running in the same heat," Perry said.