The forecast for Saturday in Minneapolis, Minn., is partly cloudy, temperatures in the 50s, and a whole lot of Rams celebrating victory.
The men and women cross country teams enter this weekend’s Roy Griak Invitational ready to compete. Griak is the Chipotle burrito of all meets, out weighing all previous races.
The Rams have trampled the opposition in their two previous meets. However, this week provides much stiffer competition.
Three hundred eighty four runners from 50 teams will compete. The men’s side features eight teams among the top 25, including No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 5 Oregon. The women must deal with No. 5 Providence and No. 13 Michigan, among others.
The competition is fierce and the stakes are high.
Griak provides the first chance for teams to score points towards nationals. As part of the toughest region in the nation, the Mountain region, the Rams need to run well and compile much-needed points that go toward qualification in the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Undaunted, the runners are eager to compete.
“I’m ‘normal-nervous’ and excited,” junior Colleen Blair said. “This race has a big influence on our standing in nationals.”
When the season began the runners and coaches circled this meet on the schedule.
“We’re excited about this meet,” coach Del Hessel said. “We’ve been looking forward to the competition.”
The meet couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, the Rams are rested and as good as they have ever been, Hessel said.
With no race last weekend the athletes focused on completing their daily regimen. During a steady-state training session; ran at 80 percent speed and having each subsequent mile completed faster than the previous, the men ran 10 miles in 53 minutes, 9 seconds and the women, seven miles in 42:00-the fastest times ever recorded at CSU.
“We’ve been training with this meet in mind,” freshman Bekah Yetzer said.
Yetzer hails from Minnesota and is excited to run just 30 minutes from home. The nerves will hit her the night before, but she can’t wait to run in the northern air, she said.
With two meets under their belts the teams are realizing their talent as well as their unity.
“There are no particular weaknesses, no glaring problem to solve,” Hessel said. “Both the men and women are coming together physically and in support of each other.”
Hungry to get back to competition the Rams have set the bar high.
“We have no intentions of finishing outside the top five,” Hessel said.
This weekend’s clouds will be unable to dim the luster of these CSU Rams.
This week’s Prefontaine:
All signs point to a strong finish for Nicole Feest and the Michel brothers, Bill and Paul.
An intimidating pack, featuring Badgers (Wisconsin), Ducks (Oregon), Friars (Providence) and Wolverines (Michigan).