The Wisconsin Invitational this Friday holds a lot of the cards that could decide whether ASU’s cross-country teams make it to the NCAA championships down the road.
With the championship hopes put on hold for now, the Sun Devils are prepping for their toughest meet so far this season.
This meet is also very significant for the Sun Devils in lieu of their subpar performance at the Notre Dame Invitational two weeks ago.
They will be running sophomores Shelby Houlihan and Macy Bricks, redshirt seniors Natasa Vulic and Hailey Hanna, and freshmen Adriana Olivas and Tory Haberman.
The Sun Devils didn’t expect to place tenth back at Notre Dame, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they finished very strong in this outing.
With an outstanding front-woman running, that plays right into ASU’s strategy.
“We have to have a low stick,” coach Ryan Cole said. “So Shelby — that’s her responsibility — to be a low stick, so, that’s someone in the top 30 or 35.”
Complimenting Houlihan is ASU’s great middle pack of runners.
“We need our pack, our two to five or two to six, right together,” Cole said. “They can’t be more than 10 seconds apart, and we’re going to need them running on their game. So they’re going to have to be solid.”
The full-fledged “A” team is competing for just the second time this season.
The six runners will be redshirt senior Darius Terry, graduate student Zach Zarda, senior Nick Happe, redshirt sophomore Garrett Baker-Slama, redshirt freshmen Ryan Herson, freshmen CJ Albertson and redshirt junior Steven Schnieders.
Twenty-one of the top 30 teams in the country are competing in Wisconsin. A meet like this becomes a measuring stick for great teams to separate themselves from the good ones.
With all the pressure of this big meet, the Sun Devils look to focus on strategy — something they have emphasized all year.
“We’re really kind of focused on our execution, following the race plan and competing like we have all year and not get too caught up in that stuff,” men’s coach Louie Quintana said. “So we’re just going to go out there and compete really hard. I think that we have a pretty solid squad and we’re going to be happy with the outcome.”
Excitement is building up within the team, since the team has not competed often so far this season.
“I think everybody is really excited,” Happe said. “Practices are going very well. We’ve done some great work with great workouts, and doing some impressive things that we really haven’t done in the past as a team. So I think everybody is really kind of itching to get out there, and actually be out and have it translate out in a race.”
Happe said another difference from last year is how they are working together more as a team when they run, not just as “a bunch of individual races.”
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