MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State cross country teams resume their seasons when they compete in the Pre-National Invitational on Saturday in Louisville, Ky., at E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park. The Pre-National Invitational is a highly anticipated race each year with it being held on the same course to host the NCAA Championship later in the season. The meet traditionally brings teams from across the country as opposed to it being more of a regional meet like many others.
This year’s Pre-National Invitational will have four races total. Included in those four races are two seeded races (the Men’s Red and the Women’s Red) and two unseeded races (the Men’s Black and the Women’s Black). The Wildcat women are in the women’s seeded race that starts at 9:15 a.m. while the Wildcat men are the men’s unseeded race slated for a 9:45 a.m. start.
At the Pre-NCAA Invitational last season, the Wildcat women placed 20th with a score of 585 points while the men placed 34th by scoring 899 points. Junior Martina Tresch led the women by finishing 12th with a time of 21:00 while sophomore Adam Porter led the men with a time of 25:49 in 115th place.
Head Coach Michael Smith explains why the Wildcats are participating in the Pre-National Invitational again this year.
“There are two reasons to participate in this meet. First, it serves as a chance for runners to run on the NCAA Championships course,” Smith said. “However, it has evolved to a meet where a vast majority of teams who are capable of reaching the NCAA Championships go to compete against other teams to gain at-large points. We chose to go there because we feel like one of our women may make it as an individual so then she will know what to expect on the course.”
The Wildcat women should see strong competition. They will compete against eight top 25 teams including No. 1 Florida State, No. 4 Oregon, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 8 Michigan, No. 17 College of William and Mary, No. 18 Colorado, No. 24 Villanova and No. 25 Butler. Big 12 opponents such as West Virginia, Baylor and Texas will also give the Wildcat women a challenge.
Smith is excited about the challenges the women will face from the tough competition.
“We are in the competition with eight top 25 teams. It will be very competitive,” Smith said. “This should be great for our best women. They will have a chance to race against some of the best runners in the country and our team will be able to measure itself against some of the best teams in the country. We will also measure ourselves against teams from our region and in the Big 12.”
By racing at the Pre-National Invitational, Smith believes this will give sophomore Laura Galvan important experience for the rest of the season after finishing seventh two weeks ago at the Rim Rock Classic.
“Running this course could prove to be very useful for Galvan who is racing at a very high level and training at a very high level. We hope she continues to improve in that direction towards the NCAA Championships in November.”
Smith also believes sophomore Erika Schiller and freshman Mary Frances Donnelly will not be fazed by racing strong competition.
“I think they have good heads on their shoulders. They seem to be even keeled and not intimidated,” Smith said. “I look forward to seeing them embrace the challenge and I hope they view themselves as belonging. This is a good chance for Schiller and Donnelly to race against the best runners, and more of them at the same time. It will be interesting to see how they respond, which I think they will very well. I have never seen anything out of them that will indicate anything else.”
Participating in major cross country meets like the Pre-National Invitational is why Smith believes the women’s cross country athletes come to K-State.
“This is what they came to K-State to do, to race against these types of teams and athletes. Our women athletes should view themselves as athletes who belong here, rather it’s this year, next year or the year after,” Smith said. “They will get to show and demonstrate what they do this weekend.”
The Wildcat men will compete against opponents they have raced against earlier in the season. Wichita State, Indiana, Creighton, Toledo and Air Force are teams the Wildcat men will be familiar with when competing during their meet.
Smith expects for Fernando Roman to compete with the top runners in the field.
“I want him to become a penetrator. He needs to be our best runner and as good as the best runner of the other teams in the unseeded race, and he needs to run that way,” Smith said. “There are 28 teams, and if he is in the top 28 individually, then that’s a good race. However, we are hoping for him to be in the top 10. He should be competing with the best runners of the other teams we will compete against in the race.”
Besides Roman, Smith believes other members of the men’s team could perform very well on Saturday.
“There is a pack of five guys that have been running together in practice and will run together in this meet. We hope that out of that pack, somehow two of them splinter off and finisher higher,” Smith said. “Our second and third best runners are working together as well and can do a good job of competing near the front closer to Roman.”
After the Pre-National Invitational, the K-State cross country teams will participate in the Big 12 Championships on October 27 in Austin, Texas.