The ASU cross country team is heading down to Tucson Friday to compete in the Dave Murray Invitational, a meet that provides one last tune-up before the real season begins in two weeks at Notre Dame.
The main competition in the invitational will be UA and UCLA.
The national rankings were released this week, and both the ASU men and women’s teams are ranked.
The men’s team will open the season ranked 29th nationally and fifth in the rest region. The Women’s team is ranked No. 11 in the nation and fourth in the West region.
After sending only 11 total runners to the first meet at Flagstaff, coach Louie Quintana is using this meet to get all of his runners into shape.
“It’s just an opportunity for us to break up our training and see where we are at because now we’ve been together for about a month,” Quintana said. “I think a lot of kids are anxious to see where they are at in their training, and it will be the first time that many of them are going to suit up.”
The team will be running almost everyone, even if they are running unattached to ASU.
However, some key runners will not be competing.
On the women’s side, seniors Ali Kielty and Allie Kieffer will not run due to injury. Quintana said he does not expect the two to be ready for the Notre Dame meet in two weeks.
On the men’s side, Quintana said he has chosen not to send his best runner, senior Brandon Bethke. His absence, however, will not be due to injury.
“He’s fine,” Quintana said. “He’s a fifth-year senior, so it’s not like he needs to go down there to hone his racing skills or anything like that. He’s ready to go already.”
For some runners, it will be their first cross country meet in almost a year.
Senior Kari Hardt, who was a second team All-Pac-10 selection last year, and junior Camille Olson will be running for the first time since the end of last season.
While those two might be ASU’s top two finishers once the season begins, Quintana said not to expect them to finish very high in this meet.
“We are really being conservative with the race plan, so don’t expect them to lead our team and be our top two finishers,” Quintana said. “I’m going to hold them back and just get them back in that competitive environment before we go to Notre Dame. I don’t want Notre Dame to be overwhelming and have them be like, ‘I haven’t raced in so long.’
“I want them to go to Tucson, go through motions, get the butterflies before the race, and then run with our second pack and help that young group out.”
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