The top eight Eastern women's athletes will head to the University of Louisville to compete in the Pre-Nationals Invitational this Saturday– the remaining squad will compete at the local Inland Empire Classic in Lewiston, Idaho.
Cheney, Wash. – This week proves to be a very important one for the Eastern Washington University cross country teams, as this weekend marks the last races of the regular season until the Big Sky Conference Championships on Oct. 31, in Cedar City, Utah. This Saturday, Oct. 17, the Eagles will split teams and race at the University of Louisville Pre-National Invitational and the Inland Northwest Classic in Lewiston, Idaho.
At the Pre-National Invitational, the top runners on the women's team will be competing against 44 other top ranked schools like Colorado (second in the country), Oregon (fourth), Michigan (fifth) Georgetown (seventh), and Stanford (ninth) on the 6,000 meter course. Three other top 30 ranked teams that will be competing at the meet include Villanova (26th), Texas (27th), and Cornell (29th). The Eagles will also face Air Force Academy once again after finishing two places below them at the University of Washington Invitational. Other Big Sky Conference teams that will be at Saturday's race are Weber State and Montana State. There will be six races that day, two seeded, two unseeded, and two open races for men's and women's teams. Eastern's women's team will compete in the second race of the day, the 6,000 meter Red seeded race beginning at 7:15 a.m. PST.
Staying closer to home, the men's team and remaining women's runners will be competing in the Inland Empire Classic. Last year at the race, junior Katie Lynch was the top finisher for the women's team and senior Aaron Brenton was the top finisher for the men. Schools that the Eagles will face include Lewis-Clark State, Washington State, Idaho, University of Calgary, Montana, Gonzaga, Spokane Falls CC, College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon, and University of Great Falls. The women will race a 5,000 meter course at 11:00 a.m. with the men to follow on an 8,000 meter course at 11:45 a.m. PST.
Comments from Head Coach Chris Shane . . .
"We are taking our top eight women to Pre-Nationals – right now it is pretty defined on who those are. Everyone is healthy so that makes it a pretty easy decision to decide who gets to travel. We will have all of the girls who raced at the UW Invite racing at Pre-Nationals. It is going to be a stiff competition – it is the second biggest meet in the country next to the Wisconsin invite. There are 44 teams competing, which is a lot, quite a bit more than what we have experienced in the past. Five of the top ten teams in the country will be in our race in Louisville. Cal who is ranked ahead of us in the west region will be there. Other challenging teams will be Utah, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, Furman, and San Francisco. In conference, we will see Weber State and Montana State who were both picked ahead of us in the preseason polls."
"I'm looking forward to this race on multiple levels. One, to see where we stack up against Weber State and Montana State, two, to be better than we were at Washington, and three, which is likely the most important in a national perspective, we need to beat teams that will ultimately qualify automatically for nationals in their region. Right now those teams are looking like Texas and Villanova or Cornell."
"A perfect day for us would be sixth place. When you have five of the top ten teams in the country a sixth place finish would be spectacular. A top ten finish would be excellent. The field is loaded with very good teams so a finish in the top 15 would be awesome, but the closer a finish to sixth the better."
"The Lewiston meet is traditionally a meet for us where the people who are trying to make the traveling team get a shot at making it. On the men's side this year, we are going to use this race as more of a training stimulus. We are still trying to get better and time it just right so that our max performance level is done before conference. We will go into this meet with the emphasis on running hard, but knowing that we haven't necessarily backed off in training. Ideally, when you want to race well you back off of training, you rest, you go into it ready to go but we haven't done that. The purpose behind that is so that we can do that over the next two weeks and really put all of our eggs in one basket come conference week, and hold onto that heading into the regional championships."
What's Next . . .
After this weekend's races, the Eagles will have 13 days to prepare for the Big Sky Conference Championships where the top eight runners from each team will head to Utah to compete against the other 11 Big Sky Conference schools. The women's 5,000 meter race will begin at 9:00 a.m. with the men to follow at 10:00 a.m. PST on the 8,000 meter course.