The Washington State University cross country teams returns to Spokane this weekend as they get set to race in the Erik Anderson Memorial Invitational Saturday.
The Cougars are coming off team victories on both the men’s and women’s sides at the Clash of the Inland Northwest in Spokane during their first meet of the season.
The race will take place at Plantes Ferry Park in Spokane and will kick off with the women’s 6k race at 10:45 a.m. The men’s 8k race follows at 11:30 a.m.
Saturday’s races will be the final tune-up before the teams head to Notre Dame Sept. 30 to race in the Notre Dame Invitational. Head Coach Pete Julian will factor in the small window of recovery time in his strategy for Saturday.
“We’re going to really go for it on the women’s side,” Julian said. “It’s an important race for our women because they will be able to get a feel for what it’s going to be like in a week’s time when we go to Notre Dame.”
Because the men face a longer race, coach Julian plans to run only part of the men’s squad in an effort to stay healthy for the Notre Dame Invitational less than a week later.
Expectations for Saturday’s meet are high following last week’s success. The team has been training remarkably well thus far, and thinks the training should translate to success, Julian said.
The teams have primarily raced on new courses, so Saturday’s race will present an opportunity to measure progress.
“We raced there last year, so it gives us a new base line to go on,” Julian said.
The Cougars are running one of the more experienced men’s teams in recent years as they return four upperclassmen this season to couple with a strong recruitment class. The men are climbing the regional rankings, as they now rank sixth out of 15 in the Men’s West Regional division ahead of fellow Pac-12 schools UCLA, Cal and Arizona.
The women’s team brings forth a group of talented youth for the 2011 season. While the team lacks experience with only two upperclassmen, they do have a strong team of young runners who look to build on the strong start.
The Cougar women will face a tough challenge Saturday.
“They are having the DII national championships (at Plante’s Ferry Park) this year,” Julian said. “So most of the best DII teams, and then certainly a lot of the good Inland DI schools, will be there.”