Sept. 27, 2013
Vanderbilt's No. 20 women's cross country team heads north to Minneapolis, Minn. for the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday.
For the first time this year the women's squad will tackle a 6K course and have a full compliment of the team's best runners with senior Liz Anderson set to make her 2013 debut. The Roy Griak Invitational was the scene for the Commodores' coming out party in 2011 when the Dores finished seventh overall and later captured the school's first-ever cross country SEC title.
"Training has gone well and the women seem pretty focused on a good effort in Minnesota," head coach Steve Keith said. "This is a national level meet - 8 top 30 Division I teams along with the top two Division II ranked schools - and with the addition of Liz Anderson to the travel squad, this will be the first time we've run our top group together so the team is pretty excited."
The 6K distance will be a step up for the team after running 5K races in both the Belmont Opener and Commodore Classic on a tough course at Percy Warner Park.
"First 6k distance this fall and the course is challenging with a number of hills and turns so we'll see how the women respond to the challenge," Keith said. "Our goal is for a close 1-5 grouping and with the addition of Liz, the front of our group should be consolidated nicely with Hannah [Jumper], Lily [Williams] and possibly Carmen [Carlos]. We really like our depth so don't count out, however, any of the ten we are traveling to jump up into our top five and top seven."
Both Coach Keith and assistant coach Rhonda Riley are excited to see Anderson in action for the first time this season. Anderson was a first team All-SEC member in 2011 and owns the fastest 6K time on the team with a 20:21.1, run last year at Wisconsin.
"This is a great opportunity for the women to see where they stack up against some great programs," Riley said. "We will put Liz Anderson into the group and will look to her to provide leadership up front."
The addition of Anderson is expected to solidify the Commodores' scoring chances along side Jumper and Williams with Grace Orders, Claire Benjamin and Rebecca Chandler looking for a spot in Vandy's top five. Pushing for a spot near the front will be Vanessa Valentine, Carmen Carlos, Courtney Kriegshauser and Sara Barron.
The field at the Roy Griak will be a deep and talented one with No. 5 Arizona, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 21 NC State, No. 23 San Francisco, No. 26 Iowa State and No. 29 Butler representing Division I. Add in defending Division II national champion and top-ranked Grand Valley State with Division II No. 2 Adams State and this will be one of the deepest and fastest fields lining up anywhere on Saturday.
"This was a very good meet for the team a couple years ago so we are excited to return. First really big quality field should be a good experience for both the younger and older runners. At this point in the season we need this type of test and should be up for the challenge."
The women's race is scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m. tomorrow on the Les Bolstad golf course in Minneapolis.
Check out a preview of the course here