August 29, 2008

Cross Country Opens Season in San Francisco this weekend

Aug. 29, 2008

Santa Clara will open cross country season this weekend at the 16th Annual San Francisco Invitational at Golden Gate Park Sat., Aug. 30. The Women's 5k begins at 9:15 a.m., with the Men's 8k following at 10 a.m. The start and finish are located on Speedway Meadow.

Host USF welcomes Stanford, California, Santa Clara, San Francisco State, Sonoma State, UC Santa Cruz, SF Academy of Art, and San Jose State to the meet. Stanford last competed in the meet in 2005 and its women's team has since won three consecutive NCAA Titles (2005-07). Stanford men were 19th at the NCAA Championships last year.

"This will be great competition for an early season meet," said Bronco head coach Tom Service. "Both Felipe Montoro (SCU men's cross country coach) and I look at any meet in August as a sophisticated training run and the first competitive step in heading to our championship meets. We are evaluated by what we do at the end of the season and because of that, our early season meets are more training runs. Our training is geared for us to peak in late October and early November at the WCC Championship and NCAA West Regionals.

"We will run as a group through early parts of the race this weekend and hopefully the leaders on our teams will finish with negative splits as they complete their first race this season," continued Service. "With that being said, it's still exciting for us because it's a competition."

Service sees the women as more experienced this season as the top seven are juniors and seniors and `very proven runners'. The returning leader on the women's side is Veronica Vasquez - an all-WCC cross country runner and the school record holder in the 5,000m on the track. She will be pushed by Stephanie Wilson, a relative new comer to cross country.

"Stephanie wasn't near the top seven last year, but really came on during track season. She was the top 3000m runner outdoors and second to Veronica in the 5000m on the team," said Service.

Another top returner is Noelle Lopez. She has been plagued by the injuries, but has been healthy the last year and that has helped her training. Sophomore Melissa Conlin was first team All-WCC in cross country last season. Service will also keep an eye on freshman Jennifer Clarke, a local girl from Oak Grove High School.

On the men's side, the top returners include sophomore Robbie Reid. Service said he looks very fit and should be one of the leaders to follow up on his successful track season his freshman campaign. Stephen Koch had a good freshman year and an injury-plagued sophomore year, but the coaches look for him to return to the form he was in two years ago. Chris Gumbs is a fifth-year senior and the only member of the group who was on the 2006 cross country first-team All-WCC. Chris Sampson was an All-WCC honorable mention in 2007.

Freshmen on the men's side to look out for include Nhu-Nguyen. Le. Le joins high school teammate Chris Mosier, a Bronco sophomore, who is also running well right now.