Upping the ante — Idaho cross country set to face tougher competition at Oregon this weekend
The Vandals get into the heart of their schedule this week as the men’s and women’s cross country teams race in the Dellinger Invitational at Eugene, Ore., Saturday. Idaho junior Hannah Kiser is the 2011 Dellinger Invitational defending collegiate champion. Kiser said she is in even better shape this year than she was in 2011.
“Last year I won, so you always feel some pressure to defend your title,” Kiser said. “There’s usually some girls who are top in the NCAA … I definitely want to run a (personal record time).”
Both Vandal teams haven’t finished worse than third in a meet this season, but they face a much larger challenge this weekend against several nationally ranked teams. Oregon is ranked No. 23 on the men’s side and No. 3 on the women’s side. BYU ranks No. 3 on the men’s side and No. 32 on the women’s side.
The Vandal men will also face several regionally ranked teams including No. 10 Washington, No. 14 Gonzaga and No. 15 Sacramento State from the West Region in addition to No. 11 Southern Utah from the Mountain Region.
The Vandal women challenge No. 8 Southern Utah, No. 12 Gonzaga and No. 15 UC Riverside from the West Region.
“This is one of the big weekends for cross country,” Idaho coach Wayne Phipps said. “The Dellinger is one of the main meets going on this weekend. The University of Oregon has always been able to attract nationally ranked teams throughout the years.”
Idaho will be competing in the seventh annual Bill Dellinger Invitational for the third time, but the meet is named for a man whose history goes further back.
“For those who don’t know, Bill Dellinger (was) a legendary Oregon coach,” Idaho senior Jeff Osborn said. “He’s usually out there — starts the race or does something out there, so it’s kind of cool to see.”
Bill Dellinger went from being a world-class distance runner at Oregon to continuing the Oregon tradition by coaching several world-class athletes.
Dellinger, who was born March 23, 1934, was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2000.
Phipps said the Vandals will use this meet to compare themselves to where they were at this point last season. It will also be good for the freshman and younger runners to get experience in a more prestigious meet than they have competed in thus far.
“After a meet like this, it definitely makes you prepared for the bigger meets coming up,” Phipps said.
The race takes place on a golf course at the Springfield Country Club. The flat course, composed of mostly grass, and the strong competition make the Dellinger Invitational a prime course for personal records.
“I really feel like they learned a lot from the University of Washington meet, and they put in a lot of hard work, so I feel like they are really prepared for this weekend,” Phipps said. “The most important thing for us is to keep seeing the improvements from week to week … not always necessarily in terms of time but racing intelligence and being competitive throughout the whole distance.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org