Sept. 12, 2013
Nashville, Tenn. -
Vanderbilt's men's and women's cross country teams are set to host the Commodore Classic Saturday morning at Percy Warner Park.
The cross country course will be full Saturday morning with over 300 runners in both the men's and women's races. Both races will feature 31 teams, including Southeastern conference foes Ole Miss and Mississippi State along with local teams from Lipscomb, Belmont, Cumberland, Lee, Middle Tennessee State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and Trevecca Nazarene. The 20th ranked VU women's team will send 13 runners to the line for Saturday's 5K race. Freshmen Reagan Anderson, Carmen Carlos, Courtney Kriegshauser and Lily Williams join sophomores Sara Barron and Vanessa Valentine on a veteran squad led by juniors Claire Benjamin, Rebecca Chandler, Katherine Delaney, Hannah Jumper and Grace Orders and seniors Kara Slavoski and Megan Yohe.
"Each week we are getting closer to running our full squad and this coming weekend we will have most of our top group running together," head coach Steve Keith said. "They've raced with each other in track quite a bit but not yet in cross country, so we'll look to develop some chemistry and leadership from Hannah, Lily and Gracer (sic) as they mix in with the group that raced the [Belmont] Opener two weeks ago."
In the Belmont Opener nearly two weeks ago, a young Vandy squad was led by Valentine who clocked a time of 18:25.20 to finish in eighth place overall. This time around, however, the group will have more of a veteran presence with the team's top runners lacing their shoes up. Jumper is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and covered the course in 21:20.33 at last year's Commodore Classic to finish seventh overall. For Williams it will be her cross country debut after redshirting last fall and Orders will start her first Commodore Classic after sitting out last year.
"This meet will be the first opportunity the ladies will have to run together as an entire squad," assistant coach Rhonda Riley said. "Adding Lily, Grace and Hannah into the group will fill out the depth of the squad and provide some experience and leadership up front."
The Vanderbilt men will send their 10-men squad out onto the 8K course with senior David McAdams, juniors Andrew Bachman, Matthew Cleveland, John Ewing and Dan Henderson, sophomores Andrew Fix, Nick French and Sam Reilly and freshmen Sam Andrews and Jake Van Geffen all wearing the black and gold.
"Last year we had a very good race from Matt Cleveland and he looks to be in that form again this year," Keith said. "To keep as tight a group as possible within a field of over 30 teams will be quite a challenge but that is the only way our group will be able to maximize their race plan. Learning to run together and with confidence would be a great take away from the weekend."
Cleveland was the Commodores' top finisher a year ago at the Classic, crossing the line in 26:20.24. Newcomer Van Geffen led the way for Vandy in the Belmont Opener running the 5K course in 16:52.84 but Saturday's race will be the freshmen's first 8K race as a Commodore.
"The men have been working hard at practice and they are excited to run at home in front of their family and friends," Riley said. "It will be the first 8k of the season and we are looking at our upperclassmen to lead the younger runners."
With over 30 teams and 300 runners crowding the course for each race on Saturday space will be at a premium, especially early in the race.
"With over 300 runners in the race there is a premium placed on getting out in good position, running assertive and involved with the front of the race," Keith said. "This will be the case on Saturday as will it be for the rest of the season in the larger, faster fields we'll face at Minnesota, Louisville and Wisconsin."
The starting gun for the men's 8K race is set to go off at 9 a.m. on the cross country course at Percy Warner Park. The women's 5K race is set to start at 10 a.m.