Oct. 13, 2006
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -
The University of Louisville men's and women's cross country teams will face more than 20 nationally ranked teams and many of the nation's top runners in their strongest test of the season at Saturday's Pre-Nationals Invitational at the LaVern Gibson Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.
The event, which serves as the preview meet for the NCAA Cross Country Championships set for Nov. 20 at the same course, will feature three men's races and three women's races. The Cards will open their race schedule in the women's 6,000-meter white race at 11:35 a.m. ET, and will continue with the men's 10,000-meter blue race at 12:10 p.m.
In the women's white race, UofL will face a field of 34 other teams, including 13 squads ranked in this week's U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association Top 30 Poll. Leading the way will be No. 2 ranked Colorado, No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 North Carolina State. Other nationally ranked teams will include No. 8 UC-Santa Barbara, No. 9 Wisconsin, No. 14 Washington, No. 15 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Illinois, No. 22 Colorado State, No. 23 Georgetown, No. 24 Tennessee, No. 27 Villanova and No. 29 Butler.
"It's great for our team to be racing against a field of teams that includes so many Top 10 squads, as well as two strong BIG EAST teams like Georgetown and Villanova," said UofL head coach Ron Mann. "It's a great combination of national powers, BIG EAST teams and teams that we're familiar with racing like Tennessee. I think a Top 15 finish against a field like this is a good goal for us, and considering we didn't compete in one of the top-seeded races at this event last year, that type of finish would show some significant progress towards our goal of becoming a nationally ranked women's program."
In the men's blue race, the Cards, ranked fourth in this week's Southeast Region Top 15, will be joined in the field of 35 teams by 10 nationally ranked squads, including No. 4 Colorado, No. 7 Arizona and No. 10 Oklahoma State. Other Top 30 teams entered in the race include No. 15 Georgetown, No. 18 Providence, No. 22 Ohio State, No. 24 Iowa State, No. 26 Dartmouth, No. 27 Florida State and No. 29 Butler.
"With 10 teams in the Top 30 rankings entering in our race, this is a great opportunity for our team to accumulate points towards an at-large bid for the NCAA Championships," Mann said. "Our goal is to earn a Top 10 finish and be in strong contention with teams like Georgetown and Providence from the BIG EAST and Iowa State, Florida State, Butler and Dartmouth in the Top 30. We are holding out freshman Michael Eaton because he's still fighting a foot injury, but I think our guys are ready for the challenge they'll face Saturday."
The Cards enter this weekend's race following strong performances by the men's and women's teams at the Greater Louisville Classic on Sept. 30 at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park. The Cardinal men had four runners place in the Top 10 to dominate the team title, while UofL freshman Tarah McKay won the women's individual title to lead the Cardinal women to third place overall.
"This weekend's competition will be a great challenge for Tarah because the field of runners will include some of the top NCAA runners in the nation," Mann said. "This race has a great environment, with a challenging, but fair course. It's a great opportunity for the University of Louisville to compete on a national stage, and we're really excited about that."
Following Pre-Nationals, the Cards will have a week off from competition to prepare for the BIG EAST Championships on Oct. 27 at Franklin Park in Boston, Mass.