Event: NCAA Division I National Championships
Where: LaVern Gibson Course – Terre Haute, Ind.
When: Monday at 9:08 a.m.
Live coverage: CBS College Sports Network; live streaming on NCAA.com
Who to watch: This has been a season of firsts for seniors Kim Conley and Kaitlin Gregg.
They were part of the first team to compete at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, where they raced against some of the best competition in the nation. They were the first Aggies to earn All-Big West Conference honors. They were the first to go All-Region at the NCAA West Regionals.
Now, they are the first Division I Aggies to compete at the NCAA National Championships in cross country.
Did you know? Though Conley and Gregg are the first Division I members of the cross country team to race at nationals, they are not the first Aggies to race at the Division I National Championships.
That distinction belongs to Patti Gray.
When UC Davis was a non-scholarship, Division II institution in the 1980s, the top three finishers at the Division II nationals were able to compete at the Division I nationals.
In virtue of her two second-place finishes, Gray had the opportunity to compete at the Division I level years before UC Davis officially became a Division I institution.
Though only going once – Gray turned down the second invitation to focus on the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials – she laid the foundation for future Aggies, continuing now with Conley and Gregg.
Preview: At 9:08 a.m., the nation’s best will toe the line ready to leave everything on the course with the hope of representing both themselves and their schools on the biggest stage of them all: the NCAA Division I National Championships.
For Conley and Gregg, this is the culmination of four years of hard work in Aggie blue.
“Going to this meet was something that both Kaitlin and Kimmy had as their individual goals when we sat down in September at the outset of the season,” said head coach Drew Wartenburg. “In that sense, it was very much something that they had set down.“
“Three months ago it was definitely a goal,” Conley said. “It seemed like a realistic goal. When I got injured that’s when I started to get nervous that it would really happen in the end.“
But regionals proved Conley is rounding back to her old form. Though only seventh – one place behind Gregg – at the Big West Championships, she was the first Big West athlete at the West Regionals. Gregg was second.
This has given Conley confidence that she may be able to achieve her goal of earning All-American honors by finishing in the top 40.
“If I race the way I raced at regionals,” she said, “I should be able to do it.“
This will be the biggest race of either of their cross country careers by far. Though both Conley and Gregg are going in with a serious, competitive mindset, they will still enjoy their last hurrah.
“I’m just so thrilled and so happy, and excited to compete at nationals and finish off my Aggie career with a great race,” Gregg said. “It’s not just the runners on the course; cross country is our entire program, all the fans and family and friends and supporters.“