RALEIGH, N.C. After easy first-place finishes two weeks ago at the Wolfpack Invite, NC State’s men’s and women’s cross country teams return to action this weekend in Greenville, N.C., for the ECU invitational.
The Wolfpack’s women’s team, ranked No. 29, will run again this weekend without the services of senior Brittany Tinsley, junior Bona Jones and sophomore Colleen Wetherbee. All three are catching up on their training. Junior Kara McKenna, meanwhile, will again run unattached.
That leaves women’s head coach Laurie Henes with a lineup loaded with freshmen. At the Wolfpack Invite, Henes had four true freshmen and one redshirt-freshman in uniform. Two other true freshmen and a sophomore ran unattached.
“We’ll be lining up the same people we lined up at the Wolfpack Invite two weeks ago,” Henes says. “I thought a lot of our true freshmen ran well in that race. They’ve had a real challenging training block these last two weeks, and hopefully that will translate into good times this weekend.”
True freshmen Lauren Bishop, Emily Pritt, Andie Cozzarelli and Caroline Kirby ran 1-2-3-4 for the Wolfpack at the Wolfpack Invite, although McKenna won the race running unattached, and former Wolfpack standout Angelina Blackmon finished third, also unattached. True freshmen Erika Alpeter and Tiayonna Blackmon, redshirt-freshman Amanda Burger and sophomore Marika Walker all finished in the top 10. Alpeter, Blackmon and Walker all ran unattached.
“That’s a really good group of young runners,” Henes said. “Lauren, Emily, Andie and Caroline all ran well in their first race in uniform, and Amanda Burger appears ready to take a step forward. The race this weekend is an opportunity for our younger runners to take a step forward as we move towards the meat of our schedule in October.”
The NC State men, ranked 15th nationally in the latest poll by the USTFCCCA, will be looking to improve on their times from two weeks ago. Despite winning the Wolfpack Invite with a perfect score of 15, head coach Rollie Geiger felt his runners’ times were not as fast as they could have been, thanks to a combination of near 90-degree heat and the lack of strong competition in the field.
Whatever the reason, Geiger expects better times this weekend in Greenville.
“This will be similar in some ways to the first race we had at home,” Geiger said. “In that race we tried to group everyone in that first group of seven together. We’ll have them in smaller groups this time. I told them it’s time to race.”
Seniors Gavin Coombs and Fredy Torres, and junior John Martinez provide upper-class leadership for the Wolfpack, which also will line up several true and redshirt-freshmen. True freshmen Ryan Hill and Patrick Campbell, competing unattached, ran with the upper-classmen at the Wolfpack Invite, and redshirt-freshmen Andrew North and Greg Dame both finished in the top 10.
In addition to that group of seven, redshirt-freshman Bobby Moldovan will make his official NC State debut at the ECU Invitational. Moldvan, who missed the Wolfpack Invite while recovering from a minor Achilles problem, was a member of the 2008 USA Junior Cross Country Team this past spring. Geiger believes that Moldovan should be capable of running with NC State’s front group of runners.
Geiger has challenged his team for this weekend’s race. The weather conditions should be considerably more conducive to cross country than two weeks ago, and the course should be user-friendly.
“This is a pretty flat course, not a very difficult cross country course, so I hope that we’ll turn in some quality times,” Geiger said. “They’ll challenge each other. It’s time for the gloves to come off. They’ll be competing. They’ll have comeptition from within.”