The Bronco men's and women's cross country teams are getting ready for the 40th annual Stanford Invitational on Sat., Sept. 28. The men's race will begin at 9:50 am and the women's race at 10:30 am.
The men's race will showcase a Stanford team, ranked No. 20, that won the NCAA West Regional last year. On the women's side, Stanford is ranked No. 8 in the country and No. 4 in the Pacific Region. USF is the only other ranked team in the field, at No. 23.
SantaClaraBroncos.com sat down with Bronco assistant coach Pete Cushman (PC) to talk about the team's weekend off prior to the Stanford Invite, who is racing this weekend and what the novice Broncos have learned thus far this season.
SCU: The team has had two weeks off to get use to classes and train harder. What are the coaches expectations for this weekend?
PC: Being on the quarter system is really great for our student-athletes to adjust to the increased training load at the start of the season. Our main focus can be on training and taking care of all the little things. We managed to get five great weeks of training in before classes start, and I think everyone took advantage of that. The Stanford Invite is an important one on our schedule. It's our first opportunity to race in a large field, which is something we need to practice once or twice before Regionals, and the field is very competitive. It's that time of year where our student-athletes are ready to take some risks, be engaged and aggressive with the field.
2. Will the full team run this weekend? Is former All-WCC runner Ben Demaree planning to open this weekend as well?
PC: We will have everyone who is healthy in uniform this weekend and that includes Ben. He hasn't raced in a year, but he's finally healthy and ready. The training has been going well, his calf issues are under control, and he's a tough competitor. He has the ability to get fit fast, and we know what we'll get from him on race day.
This will be the first race of the year where our men run at full strength. The men, collectively, had a great team effort workout at the Rose Gardens this week, and we're really excited to see who steps up. We still have some question marks about who will be in our top 7, but I think we have a lot of guys who have worked hard and have the potential. Luca Signore has looked great the last two weeks, and Bryan Crook has been able to finally put in a consistent work load for the first time since high school. Moises Venegas is coming off a great effort at the WCC Preview meet. Sean Roe, Adrian Hinojosa, and Joey Berriatua all had great summers of training, and have been working really hard during our pre-season. Sam Holeman led us last week and we expect him to be right up there again this week.
The women have a flu bug making its rounds through the team, so we're going to sit a couple out and race them at the Gator Invite in two weeks instead. Everyone will get at least one more race in before our home meet on Oct. 19. The women who will be in uniform had a great couple of weeks.
Both Mary Kriege and Lauren Germany have been attached at the hip for every workout, long run and race we've done so far, and we think they'll both be close and near the front of the field this weekend. Both are great competitors, and will race aggressively this weekend.
Seeing how the last couple weeks have gone, I think our spread between three to seven will be very tight. This will be Kayla Germany's first race of the season too, and we're looking forward to seeing where she fits in to all of this. Audrey Hiatt has asserted herself as our number three, but we have a lot of student-athletes who can be right there with her.
SCU: What did your younger runners learn in the first two races?
PC: The preview meet was a nice introduction to the college distances for our young people. They've had two opportunities to adjust to the new distance, in two relatively low-key fields. The 6k and 8k are no longer foreign distances to any of them. With that said, the nature of a meet like Stanford will be a new experience
SCU: Both teams did really well at the WCC Preview. What are you looking to do this weekend to get better?
PC: Our objectives in the first two race were executing a race plan that centered around pace and perceived effort. We held back a little bit, and worked on pack work, hitting specific pre-determined splits regardless of how the race was unfolding, and working through the race as a collective group.
The focus changes this weekend. We'll be ignoring the watch, and finally racing against the field, which will be our objective moving forward. The timing of this meet, the competitiveness of the field and the course terrain all play into why we will start making our shift in how we approach races moving forward. We accomplished what we had hoped in the first few weeks, and now we'll see how that translates to pure racing this weekend and everything else that remains on the schedule.