The 2013 WAC Championships are imminent on Nov. 2 but the Idaho cross country teams have one last test before then. This weekend, the Vandals split up with the main runners competing at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational on Saturday in Sunnyvale, Calif., and the rest of the athletes competing at the Inland Empire Championships in Lewiston, Idaho.
“What we’re trying to get out of the Santa Clara meet is to compete against some of our main competition in the WAC, namely Utah Valley and New Mexico State,” Idaho coach Wayne Phipps said. “Very often, we don’t get to see anybody leading up to our (championship) meet.”
Phipps said eight members of the women’s team and five members from the men’s team will compete in at the Bronco Invitational. The rest of the Vandals will either compete in Lewiston or train through the weekend.
One Vandal competing in California is senior Hannah Kiser. Kiser hasn’t raced since Sept. 14 at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle because she has been battling an injury. The plan was to hold her out until the WAC Championships, but Phipps said she was anxious to race again and healthy enough to come out this weekend.
“I’m really, really excited (to race),” Kiser said. “In cross, when you miss one race, it’s kind of a lot because there aren’t really that many. Especially since cross is so team oriented, I’m really excited to be with the team again.”
Kiser will compete but the Vandals are holding out a runner on the men’s side. Freshman Tim Delcourt, Idaho’s top time-trial runner at the beginning of the year, won’t compete this weekend but is expected to compete at the WAC Championships.
Phipps said the course at Santa Clara is a familiar course that is going to be flat and won’t bang up the team right before the WAC Championships. In addition to WAC teams from Utah Valley, NMSU and Grand Canyon, the Vandals compete against teams from UC-Davis, Sacramento State, Montana, Oregon State and many others.
“It’s a pretty big meet,” Phipps said of the Bronco Invitational. “Other than the schools that are going to pre-nationals, in the West, everyone is coming to this meet.”
Last season, Phipps had three athletes compete at pre-nationals, which is basically a preview of what the NCAA Championships will be like. This season, he decided against sending runners to the meet.
Sophomore Santos Vargas said that as far as preparation, Vandals are going into this weekend as if they are already going into the WAC Championship.
“We’re still trying to meet our goal to get at least five guys under 25 minutes, but what we’re trying to do more is simulate a little bit of the conference (championship),” Vargas said. “Most of it’s going to be mentally preparing as we would for the conference.”
Even though the main competition is in California, the Vandals who compete in the Inland Northwest Championships will face some stiff competition as well. Teams from Eastern Washington, Washington State and Gonzaga are expected to make the trek to Lewiston.
“This team, every week we seem to be getting better and better. On the guys side, even though we’re young and new, they’re really adapting well to practice,” Phipps said. “I’m really excited to see what they’re going to do this weekend and then at the conference championships.”
Stephan Wiebe can be reached at email@example.com