But is that reputation earned? In each of the last four years, the Buffs's finishing position at the NCAA Championships was equal to or lower than their poll position entering the meet. Even this year's Pac-12 win wasn't that big an upset, as Stanford was only two positions higher in the last pre-meet national poll (and the Cardinal was significantly weakened by Ben Johnson's DNF).
Where did this reputation for masterful peaking come from? It would probably be their last two national championships, in 2004 and 2006. In 2004, the Buffs were ranked #4 coming into the meet and won in a big upset. What added even more to the legend was their 2006 win over what everyone thought was an unbeatable Wisconsin team. The Buffs were eighth at halfway and still trailed the Badgers with 2 km to go, but stormed to a convincing victory.
So are the Buffaloes destined to beat all expectations next Monday? Hardly. However, they are led by a smart and crafty coach, one who knows what to do to get the best out of everyone. They're a dangerous team, one with long odds to win but quite capable of getting on the podium as a top-four team.
Despite all the teamwork and planning training and everything else we do, on race day a cross country team is still the sum of its parts, no more and no less. Who are those parts?
The top two all year have been Andy Wacker (senior, Pinehurst NC) and Richard Medina* (senior, Grand Junction CO). Wacker was runner-up at the Pre-National Invitational and 6th at the Pac-12 Championships, while Medina was fourth at Pre-Nats and 3rd at the Pac-12. Both are capable of finishing in the top twenty or so on Monday, and even the top ten is not out of reach.
*If ESPN's Chris Berman covered cross country, I think he'd go with Richard "Funky Cold" Medina, for all you Tone-Loc fans out there.
Freshman sensation Ammar Moussa (Arcadia CA) has only run three college races, but they've been good: 19th at Pre-Nats, 15th at the Pac-12, and 17th at the Mountain regional. Finishing near Moussa at these meets has been Christian Thompson (senior, Candor NY) – 21st at Pre-Nats, 13th at the Pac-12, and 12th at the Mountain regional. I figure these two as finishing in the top fifty at the NCAA meet.
The big question mark for Colorado is Joe Bosshard (junior, Crested Butte CO). He has run only one race all season, the Pac-12 Championships, where he finished ninth. That's less than you'd expect from a guy who was 8th in the 10,000 meters at last spring's NCAA Championships, and 26th at last fall's NCAA cross country championships. Coach Wetmore sat him for regionals, so obviously something is not quite right. If he can run with Wacker and Medina on Monday, then the Buffs are going places.
The other two runners figuring to run for Colorado on Monday are Martin Medina (junior, Grand Junction CO) and Blake Theroux (redshirt freshman, Chesapeake VA). Both have been solid throughout the season, but the Buffs are in trouble if either of these end up as a top-five scoring runner.