Sept. 22, 2011
RALEIGH, N.C. — The college cross country season begins to turn serious this weekend, and NC State will take part in the fun by participating at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday at the University of Minnesota.
The men will run in the Division I men’s race, which will start at 11:20 Eastern Daylight Time. The women’s Division I race will follow at 12:10 EDT.
Fans can following the action by logging onto the official Roy Griak Invitational website.
This weekend’s action will be the first weekend that teams can win criteria points for NCAA postseason consideration. That means a team can strengthen its case for an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships by finishing ahead of other schools looking to qualify for the championship race.
With a strong field in this year’s Roy Griak Invitational, both NC State teams — the men are ranked No. 11 nationally, the women at No. 21 — can help solidify their case for an at-large bid. The men and women both earned at-large bids a year ago thanks to criteria points earned over the course of the season.
“This is a big weekend because it starts the criteria portion of the cross country schedule,” Wolfpack men’s coach Rollie Geiger said. “That’s tremendously important. We proved that last season when both teams got to Nationals with at-large bids.”
NC State is one of three ranked teams in the men’s race at the Roy Griak Invitational. Portland is No. 10, the Wolfpack is No. 11, and the host Gophers are No. 24.
Eight teams in the women’s race are ranked: No. 9 Iowa State, No. 10 Arizona, No. 11 Washington, No. 18 Penn State, No. 21 NC State, No. 25 BYU, No. 26 Michigan State, and No. 30 Minnesota.
The Wolfpack coaches chose to compete in the Roy Griak for a number of reasons, including the level of competition, plus the difficulty of the course. The course at the University of Minnesota features a rugged terrain, which should help to prepare the Wolfpack for races on similar courses later in the season.
“This type of course will be good for us,” women’s coach Laurie Henes said. “Our conference championship will be run at Clemson and it’s a rough course, but not as tough as this one, so this should help us prepare for that.”
The State men finished second in the Griak a year ago, and with a veteran squad lining up this year, a high finish could be in the offing again this time around.
The NC State men will line up redshirt-seniors Greg Dame, Adam Henken and Bobby Moldovan; senior Ryan Campbell; redshirt-juniors Patrick Campbell and Brian Himelright; junior Matt Sonnenfeldt; and redshirt-freshmen Michael Mansy, John Sharpe, Bryan Spreitzer, John Harwell and Trey Geiger.
Hill finished second in the individual standings a year ago.“We have a veteran team with six guys who are in their fourth or fifth year,” Geiger said. “At the same time, we have five freshmen lining up for this race as well. They’re redshirt-freshmen, but they’re freshmen and that surprised me.”NCAA rules now allow teams to line up extra runners for early-season races, and that helps NC State as Geiger develops runners for the future.“Our team kind of breaks down that way, all fourth- and fifth-year guys, and the rest freshmen,” Geiger said. “So it’s good that these guys are lining up for us. We know the older guys can run. One of our goals this year is for those young guys to get better, and this race will help them.”The women also will line up a veteran squad, with one true freshman and one true sophomore lining up with four runners in their fourth year in the program and three others in their third year.Lining up for the women will be senior Andie Cozzarelli; redshirt-juniors Tiayonna Bllackmon, Erika Alpeter and Leah Vaughn; true junior Erin Mercer; redshirt-sophomores Lauren Doherty and Ryanna Henderson; sophomore Kenyetta Iyevbele; and true freshman Joanna Thompson.“The field in the women’s race is very strong,” Henes said. “That said, we ran pretty well one through five or six last weekend [at the adidas Cross Country Challenge]. I’d still like to see us close the gap a little, but it was much closer than it was a year ago in the same race. We have some veteran runners who need to step up, and I really believe that they’ll get that done.”