The Santa Clara men's and women's cross country teams travel across state lines this weekend to compete. The women will travel up the road to Oregon where it will compete in the 37th annual Charles Bowles Invitational in Willamette Invitational in Bush Park, Ore. The men will travel a bit farther to South Bend, Ind. for the adidas Notre Dame Cross Country Invitational where it will run with eight of the top 26 teams nationally. Prior to departing for the meets, www.SantaClaraBroncos.com visited with Bronco head coach Felipe Montoro (FM) to talk about the weekend, its results at Stanford last week and to look ahead to the Bronco Invitational on Oct. 15 at Baylands Regional Park.
SCU: Looking back for a moment, were you pleased with the team's performance at the Stanford Invitational last weekend?
FM: Stanford was a good performance, not a great one. I thought we did what we needed to do. Our goal had been to finish in the top eight on the men's side, and we were 8th. We could have finished higher, but overall I think it was a step in the right direction for the men. In terms of the women, obviously we're not pleased with finishing 21st, but at the same time we're progressing well, and I know we'll be ready when we need to be in the postseason.
Freshmen Mary Kriege lost her shoe at the beginning of the race. She got stepped on and had to stop to put it back on. Rather than ease back into the pace she went all out and sprinted. It really caught up to her in the last 400 meters. She took it easy on Sunday and didn't run, and we'll adjust the workout for her today. The good news is she will be recovered and ready to go on Saturday. Some people are capable of pushing themselves to their absolute limit, and she is definitely one of them.
SCU: This weekend the women go to Oregon and run in the Charles Bowels Invitational at Willamette University.
FM: Age-wise we aren't very young, but we are relatively inexperienced. We have a lot of girls coming off long lay-offs, and it is an inexperienced group. This weekend it's definitely going to be good competition. Portland and some other good women's teams will be there. It's a very fast course, so we're looking to run fast times in a really competitive environment. It will be another really crowded field of almost 300 runners. We haven't had a chance to run in good weather yet; our distance runners have run on very hot days in all our races so far. It is supposed to be much nicer conditions, so we are looking forward to that.
Assistant Coach Chantelle Wilder will be taking the women. She has already taken a more active role on both teams since Priscilla Bayley left to go coach at Harvard. She has stepped right in. I think it helped her being a volunteer last year, even if it was just for the track season. She has been a really outstanding addition, and the girls really look up to her.
Stephanie Wilson is also a volunteer assistant. All three of us work together on both teams, but this weekend they'll be with the women and I will be with the men.
SCU: So this weekend the men go to Notre Dame. It's a very competitive race – including eight of the top 26 teams nationally (No. 4 Stanford, No. 10 Florida State, No. 12 Princeton, No. 14 BYU, No. 21 New Mexico, No. 23 Notre Dame, No. 25 Ohio State and No. 26 Eastern Kentucky). Did you know it was going to be such a tough field?
FM: Yes, we did, but it hasn't been this competitive in many years. This year the pre-national meet at Indiana State (in two weeks) had to move to Sunday because of a football conflict so it's lost a bit of its luster. Also, the University of Wisconsin, currently ranked second in the country, is hosting a really big invitational that same weekend. A lot of the top ranked teams are going there instead. So it changed the way the scheduling went early in the season. More ranked teams are competing earlier in a regional competition. It's going to be very competitive, but that's what we're looking for. We'll find out if we belong.
SCU: What do you tell your team before running in a race like this?
FM: We've never run in a meet this competitive in the regular season before. We belong; they wouldn't let us in the race if we didn't. So for us it's really just another stepping stone for the postseason. It's an opportunity for us to race against some really quality competition, and will end up being a lot like our regional meet.
SCU: What is your goal? Do you have a specific place you'd like to finish?
FM: It's just gaining experience and being competitive in a field that big and that fast. We feel like we can mix it up with a lot of the teams that are there. We don't have a specific place as a team that we would like to finish, but obviously the higher the better. We would like to see how much more we have to improve to get a shot at top 10 in our region. For our top runners like Robby (Robert Reid) and Ben (Ben Demaree), it's a great opportunity to compete against guys who have gone to the national meet before.
SCU: Have you been pleased with their training this week? Is everyone fairly healthy?
FM: We are a bit tired from last week's race. That's one of our main concerns about this weekend: that it is a really short turnaround. We have been mostly concerned about recovery this week. After this weekend we'll get a couple good weeks to train hard again before the Bronco Invitational. The athletes that don't race this weekend will run at the Gator Invite the week after in San Francisco, so everybody gets the same number of competitions.
We're very excited for this weekend, and it will be a great test for us on both sides.