Nearing the finish line — Vandal cross country to compete in final meets before WAC Championships
Three athletes will compete in the NCAA Division I Pre-National Cross Country Meet for Idaho Saturday at Louisville University in Kentucky. Juniors Hannah Kiser and Alycia Butterworth on the women’s side and senior Barry Britt on the men’s will make the trip for the Vandals.“Pre-nationals is a meet that the school that hosts nationals puts on in order for athletes to get a look at the course before they actually run there,” Kiser said. “This year, since Nationals is in Kentucky rather than Indiana where it has been … we felt like it was important to go to get a look at the course. It’s a chance to get some really good competition as well as see the course.”
The pre-nationals meet will also give runners experience running against several hundred runners in one race, which will be the case in the NCAA National Championships in November.
“(Pre-nationals) is going to be similar to nationals in the number of people,” Britt said. “It won’t quite be as competitive as nationals, but it will be about as close as you can get.”
While Idaho’s top three runners compete at pre-nationals, the rest of the Vandal runners will compete in the Inland Northwest Cross Country Classic in Lewiston. Two top West regional teams, WSU and Gonzaga will also be at the meet.
“I think despite being without their one or two top runners, the depth that we have and the group that we have going is still going to be very competitive,” Idaho coach Wayne Phipps said.
Being without their top runners will force the younger Vandal runners to step up at the Inland Northwest Classic, he said.
“I still feel like we have some pretty good depth on our team,” Idaho freshman Abby Larson said. “So it gives another chance for the freshman to get another good race under our belt before we hit conference.”
Junior Emily Paradis, second for Idaho in the 2011 WAC Championships, remains in Idaho this weekend to lead the Vandals in Lewiston. She is staying in Idaho because of academic conflicts, Phipps said.
On the men’s side, either senior Jeff Osborn or freshman Santos Vargas will probably emerge as the top Vandal runner in Britt’s absence.
The Vandals have endured a rigorous training schedule this year, but are now at the point in the season where the training is cut down so the runners can reach peak performance at the end of the season. Phipps said the tough training can be disappointing early in the season when the runners don’t see results right away, but it’s worth it at the end.
It’s important that the Vandals run well this weekend so they go into the WAC Championships on a good note. The teams will compete in the WAC Championships Oct. 27.
“I think it’s an opportunity to gain a lot of confidence (this weekend),” Phipps said. “Right now they’ve got a lot of confidence from practice and now here’s a great opportunity to see all their hard work come to fruition in a racing environment.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com