LAS CRUCES, N.M.-The New Mexico State University cross country team is ready to begin a new season after finishing off the best season in school history from last year.
Last year the men's and women's cross country squads each finished second at the 2011 Western Athletic Conference Championships. Neither team ever finished as strongly as the Aggies did from last season.
The men's squad will have eight returning athletes and the women's squad will have 15 returners. Of the returning athletes, senior twins Courtney and Camille Schultz will head up the women's team and the men's team will follow the lead of senior brothers Jonah and Ian Ruybalid.
The Aggies will also have a group of strong incoming freshman that will be able to compete early and contribute to the team right away. The men's squad will add five new Aggies to their roster and the women's team has four incoming athletes.
The Aggies will open up the season against their in-state rival University of New Mexico for the Lobo Invitational. The meet will take place in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday, Aug. 31.
Assistant cross country coach Christopher Huff said the meet will serve as a "rust buster" and will take place in the evening under stadium lights, which is something the team is not used to performing under.
"For the newcomers, especially for those athletes who are out-of-state, this meet will serve as an interesting adjustment in regards to altitude," Huff said.
After the Lobo Invitational the Aggies will face their more proximal rival UTEP at the Lori Fitzgerald Invitational in Santa Teresa, N.M., on Friday, Sept. 7. The Aggies will then return to Las Cruces to host the Kachina Classic on Saturday, Sept. 15.
"It is a good thing that the first three meets are so close to home because it allows us to take more athletes to compete," Huff said. "Because of that, it gives our runners more of an opportunity to separate themselves from the crowd."
Huff also said the beginning of the season is designed to help determine the strongest runners for the bigger events later in the season.
After the Kachina Classic, NM State will travel to Lawrence, Kan., for the Rim Rock Collegiate Invite on Saturday, Sept. 29. The Aggies will then head to Arizona for the Grand Canyon Invitational in Goodyear, Ariz., on Saturday, Oct 6. The Aggies' last regular season meet will then be in Sunnyvale, Calif., for the Bronco Invitational in Saturday, Oct. 15. The WAC Championships will follow on Saturday, Oct. 27, in Ruston, La.
"The outlook of our schedule is to see how the athletes are responding week after week and who will be on the team for the bigger meets," Huff said.
The Aggies will begin the Lobo Invitational at 7:30 pm (MT). The women's race will begin at 7:30 pm and the men's race will begin at 8 pm.