SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Santa Clara cross country is set for its first races of the 2016 season Saturday at the USF Invitational in Golden Gate Park's Hellman Hollow Meadow. The women's team competes in a 6k at 9:30 a.m. while the men's team competes in an 8k at 10:15 a.m.
This year's course features a new 2,000-meter loop around Golden Gate Park's Polo Field. Several Bay area schools are slated to run, notably Stanford and Cal out of the Pac-12 as well as Saint Mary's and San Francisco from the West Coast Conference. Another WCC foe, Pacific, will race on the women's side.
"We're excited to start the season this weekend at the USF Invitational," head coach Felipe Montoro said. "This will give us a chance to get a first look at the group in a race environment as we continue our preseason."
Santa Clara returns redshirt senior Ryan Greenough to lead a young group of runners in 2016. Greenough posted Santa Clara's fastest time at the Roy Griak Invitational in each of the last two years and finished 27th overall to lead the Broncos at the 2015 West Coast Conference Championship.
"We expect Ryan to be our top runner and will figure out the next seven-to-nine," associate head coach Pete Cushman said. "Typically you can pick your top nine runners in order at this point. There's no way we can do that right now."
Joey Berriatua, who has the fifth-fastest 8k time in program history, will redshirt the fall season. The Broncos have 20 active runners heading into Saturday — there are five freshmen and eight sophomores in the group.
"The men's team is very young, very talented and was very fit entering preseason," Cushman said. "This is as deep of a team as we've ever had and we have one of the most talented freshman classes we've ever had. They seem to be adapting quickly."
Heather LaPlante is Santa Clara's top returner from the 2015 WCC Championship and NCAA West Region Meet. The Portland, Ore. native finished third among all Broncos in both races, including a 29th-place finish overall at the conference meet.
"Heather had a great summer physically and mentally," Cushman said. "She seems to be in a good place right now, which we need."
Both coaches noted that current juniors Allison Martinez and Marisa Rudolph made positive progress during the offseason. Cushman said the group of 22 runners composed of eight freshmen and 10 upperclassmen has a good blend of youth and maturity.
"We haven't been this competitive through our five-six-seven runners in a really long time," Montoro said. "That's really encouraging for the year and a sign that they did all their homework in the summer."
PRESEASON TRAINING CAMP
Following the invitational, the Broncos head to the Marin Headlands for their preseason training camp Sept. 8-10. The team will stay near Rodeo Beach and work out in the surrounding area, including runs on the Golden Gate Bridge.
"The whole preseason is about figuring out how the team will interact," Montoro said. "I think it is better to have a couple weeks of practice and a race under your belt before you go to camp because you already have a little bit of a relationship built; then you can come back and get everyone on the same page as you get into the season."
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