NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Commodores cross country teams hit the course again this weekend in the Louisville (Ky.) Invite at E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park. The men will start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the women at 10:15 a.m.
The Greater Louisville Sports Commission will host the 65 collegiate teams, with over 60 squads and more than 200 runners for both the men's and women's races, from 15 states in the University of Louisville's only home meet of 2008. The state park course features three hills over rolling terrain for the men's 8k, with two hills over similar landscape for the women.
"This is a great test for some on our team to really step up as fifth, sixth and seventh runners," Coach Steve Keith, VU head coach, said. "With a field this large you really can't absorb a big gap within your top five and especially back at the fifth-runner position."
"The old cliché, `you're only as good as your fifth runner' might very well be the case this weekend."
The 'Dores have produced solid workouts over the two weeks since their last race in the Commodore Classic. Coach Keith's teams have continued to build their strength by running longer distances in practices. They've integrated faster-than-race-pace training as well, allowing them to feel more comfortable and in control during the competitions.
"This meet will be a chance for us to test our fitness, work together as a team and run competitive times," Rhonda Riley, VU assistant coach, said. "Right now the women are healthy and anxious to see all their hard work come together.
"The men are ready to see what they can do on Saturday. They have true team chemistry, and each one of them has the dedication and competitive drive to have a great race."
Matt Long returns to action this weekend for the men after sitting out the last race. Long will add to Commodores' arsenal of top-five runners. Adrienne DiRaddo, who missed the Commodore Classic, will again sit out this weekend's meet, forcing other runners to step up for Vanderbilt.
"She's (DiRaddo) training, putting in a nice full week of distance, and will be up to speed by the pre-nationals race on Oct. 18," said Keith.
DiRaddo's absence since the Belmont-VU opener, where she placed fourth for VU and 13th overall, has allowed younger runners to emerge. Rita Jorgensen and redshirt-freshman Kristabel Doebel-Hickok have first paced the `Dores at the front in both meets this season.
"We'd like to still run in groups and no less than pairs of runners as they deal with the large crowd," Keith said about VU's strategy for the meet. "Of course, we'd like to get out strong and have control over our position and place, but that is also the objective of most every team out there.
"The key will be what we can do after the first mile when a little fatigue sets in, and I think we'll handle that very well."
Junior Thomas Davis and freshman Jenner Kizer will lead the men's team on Saturday. Both runners have crossed the finish line first for the `Dores this season. Freshman Kyle Rewick has also impressed in his first two collegiate meets, turning in the third-place time for VU each race. Seniors Michael Nordlund and Rob Whiting have provided superb senior leadership thus far, placing in the top five and top 10 amongst VU runners in both races.
"For the men, if we can turn up the intensity and get after the first three miles, I really believe we can have a great meet," Keith remarked about the men's strategy. "Everyone on the team is ready to drop their times, and they are running very well as a group, maybe just a 20 to 30 second gap from our one to five runners.
"This type of effort will fare very well in such a large field."
The E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park is located at 3000 Freys Hill Rd. Louisville, Ky 40241. The GLC will exhibit two races for both the men and women, due to the number of teams and runners. The first races consist of the men's and women's gold starting times - the Commodores starting times. The remaining teams will run in the "blue" races at 11 a.m. (men) and 11:45 a.m. (women).
Keith's teams embark on the road trip tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. and will return just before the start of the VU football game at 5 p.m. on Saturday. All information and statistics for the Invite are available at alltraxtiming.com.