Sept. 1, 2006
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The 2006 Cross Country season gets underway Saturday morning as the Santa Clara University men's and women's teams, under head coach Tom Service and assistant coach Felipe Montoro, burst out of the gates at the San Francisco Cross Country Invitational to be held at Speedway Meadows at Golden Gate Park. The women's 5K is set to start at 9:15 a.m. while the gun is scheduled to go off at 10 a.m. for the men's 8K.
"For our first meet, our objectives are basically to have our runners run a negative-split race, where they run a very controlled first half of the race and a faster second half," Service explained. For confidence purposes, especially with the newcomers that we have, we want them to finish strong, so that they will know that they can finish the race telling themselves `I know I can run the race faster than that.'"
On the men's side, returning harriers Chris Gumbs (24th at 2005 WCC Championships) and Mike Delaurenti (33rd) lead a pack that will look to capture its first WCC title in 2006. Bolstered by newcomers Anthony Dipre, Alex Harkins, Steven Koch, John Laughlin, and Garett Smith, the Broncos carry a solid mix of veteran leadership and young talent.
"On the men's side we have a good blend of newcomers and veterans," said Service. "We will see who can make an adjustment, as the length of the race is longer in the college race than it is in high school. "
"Mike and Chris are probably the most fit right now, and they're in their third years with the program so they are definitely the leaders in that sense," Montoro added. "We have five freshman in the mix so it will be nice to see them run their first 8K."
Saturday the men will face off against a field that includes defending champion Arizona, as well as Cal, San Jose State, and host San Francisco.
The women's team returns a strong core in 2006, led by last season's WCC runner-up in Shannon Bell. Along with Bell, the Broncos return a trio of sophomores who turned in top-30 performances at the 2005 WCC Championships in Veronica Vazquez (13th), Whitney Porter (27th), and Anna Wheatley (29th). Also coming back to the trail will be fellow sophomore Noelle Lopez, whose promising 2005 freshman campaign was cut short due to injury. Some newcomers to the group who should make an impact are Gillian Fitch, a four-time All-CIF runner from La Jolla, and Annie Murphy-Hagan, a four-time All-State runner from Portland, Ore.
"Shannon is as fit as ever, still definitely our No. 1 runner until someone proves different, although I think she will be challenged quite a bit," Service said of the outlook for the women's team. "Noelle Lopez was one of our top runners until she went down with injury at midseason. We've kind of received an unexpected surprise from a pair of our top seniors in Jesse Phillipi and Lauren Swigart, who are very fit and running with the top group."
The women will open up the meet against such teams as defending champion Stanford as well as host San Francisco, Cal, Pacific, San Francisco State, San Jose State and UC Santa Cruz.
Following Saturday's meet both Bronco teams will take a weekend off before sending contingents to the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, Wash., and the Sac State Open in Sacramento.