NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Vanderbilt men’s and women’s cross country teams return to the course this weekend as they travel northwest to Terre Haute, Ind., to participate in the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational on Saturday Oct. 17. The meet will be hosted by Indiana State on the LaVern Gibson Championship Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.
Vanderbilt will run against some of the nation’s top team’s Saturday, as 20 of the top 30 teams in the country will be in Terre Haute, including eight of the top 10 men’s teams and seven of the top 10 women’s teams.
A total of 74 teams will run in the women’s race but the meet will be broken down into two evenly seeded races, the “white” and “blue”. Both races are made up of 37 teams to provide fair competition. The Commodore women will run a squad of seven runners in the “Blue” race starting at 12:20 p.m.
“Last year we finished 27th out of 39 teams (in the White race) with a point total of 652,” Head Coach Steve Keith said. “This year I feel that we can run 20-30 seconds faster per person and hopefully score in the low 500's and finish in the top 20 of our race.”
“One of the keys to running well is managing the crowd and density of quality runners,” Keith said. “There will be at least 20 runners finishing every 10 seconds in the 21:30-22:00 time frame, so it’s very important to get out strong and really get involved in the race. If you are 5 to 10 seconds slower in your first mile, than you will have a lot of work ahead of you. In order to minimize the lapses, it’s vital for each runner to stay in a competitive frame of mind with 21-22 minutes of complete concentration.”
“We are in better shape and have more depth than previous years, so the women really want to show off their improvement as we prepare for the SEC Championships at the end of the month. The Pre-Nationals is a great race but its still just one step in our run-up to the SEC and NCAA Regionals,” Keith said.
On the men’s side, the Commodores will run in the highly competitive open race for the second straight year. Sophomore Jenner Kizer and senior Thomas Davis have paced Vanderbilt through the first three meets while the freshman trio of Billy Malmed, Chris Baker and Joseph Newman have made a smooth transition to the collegiate level.
“This is another great opportunity for the men to run as a group as we have done in our practices,” Keith said. “We really want to run as a group for as long as we can, maybe three plus miles, and then keep our 1-5 time gap down to a minimum of 30-45 seconds. This type of race will be great preparation for the SEC Championships in two weeks.”
Both the men and women are looking forward to running on one of the nation’s premier cross country courses in Terre Haute, Ind., Saturday.
“The LaVern Gibson Championship course has hosted multiple NCAA Championships and it’s the best course we run on all year,” Keith stated. “It’s a totally dedicated course, and it is very fair for the runners as well as spectator friendly.”