Gonzaga Runners Eye Opportunity At Dellinger Invitational
SPOKANE, Wash. - The meet Gonzaga University's men's and women's cross country teams have been gearing for all year, and perhaps the biggest meet the Bulldogs have ever competed in, is here.
The Bulldogs, 12th in the West Region women's rankings and 14th in the men's poll this week, head to the Dellinger Invitational at the Springfield Golf Course in Springfield, Ore., Saturday. The women's 5K begins at 10:30 a.m. with the men's 8K at 11:15 a.m.
The field will be as tough as the Bulldogs will compete against in the regular season.
The men's field includes fellow West Coast Conference member BYU, ranked first in the Mountain Region and third nationally; host University of Oregon ranked fourth in the West Region and 23rd nationally; the University of Washington ranked 10th in the West; Sacramento State University at 15th in the West, and Southern Utah University which checks in at No. 15 in the West.
The women also face a formidable line-up. Oregon is ranked second in the West and third nationally; BYU is fifth in the Mountain, and Southern Utah is eighth in the Mountain.
The University of Wisconsin, ranked first nationally in the men's poll, and fifth-ranked University of Portland initially registered for the meet but have since dropped out.
"A lot of teams are going to participate next weekend in a lot of big meets. This is a great meet anyway," Gonzaga head coach Pat Tyson beamed. "Our goal one month before conference is to learn how to compete with the big boys, gain some confidence to racing high-end meets to callus ourselves so when we get into the West Coast Conference we've been there, done that and are moving forward. Third place is up for grabs in the WCC and we think this kind of met can help us achieve our goal."
Gonzaga assistant coach Patty Ley said the meet is an opportunity for the women.
"It's been awhile since Gonzaga has gone to a meet with the people there of this level. But it should be a stepping stone to a bigger meet down the road. We're excited about it. Whatever we do we'll get done in there and learn from it, and hopefully we come out with a ton of confidence and still need to know what we have to do," Ley said. "It's not a meet that can hurt us. It's all positive for us down the road. I think it's one of those if we nail it we don't get to hide any more. Within the WCC I think we're starting to get noticed."
Tyson said three of the 12 runners he's taking may not be 100 percent.
"There's no perfect world. (Chris) Boyle isn't 100 percent, but hopefully he can run and help the team out. We're going to run him as long as we're not going to set him back. He's got a little hip inflammation we're monitoring. Connor McCandless was held out of a couple of workouts earlier in the week with a slight strain. Brent Felnagle has a virus and we backed him down a couple of days," Tyson said.
But the Gonzaga depth is something Tyson points to with pride.
"We're glad it's not the WCC this weekend, but we also feel good about our depth. If those three guys weren't able to go I feel really good about our depth. Alex Foote is looking good; Tate Kelly is Mr. Steady; Willie Milam is always good, steady and consistent; Colin O'Neil has been a pleasant surprise, and Robert Walgren makes a great posse of runners up front," Tyson said. "Patrick Richie being a veteran is ready to lay it on the line. Nick Roche (Tigard, Ore.) is going to his fertile ground of Oregon and as the season progresses he seems to get better."
Tyson selected his final two spots off performances in last weekend's Erik Anderson Invitational, with Andrew Walker and Andy Phillips earning the nod. Nate Gesell ran a strong race and was the top Bulldog finisher last week but has decided to preserve his redshirt season.
"Nate and I had a good discussion Sunday and we decided to keep him as a redshirt, and next year he'll be more valuable. He felt good about that," Tyson noted.
Phillips has been battling a foot bruise but performed well last Saturday.
"Phillips told me he feels really good. Being it's a golf course, soft, a friendly course and not too hilly, it's a really nice place for a middle distance runner and Andy is more of a middle distance guy," Tyson said of Saturday's layout.
The women are "a touch dinged up, but most of them turn around pretty fast. It's the 3-4 day kind of stuff. It's the danger of that time of year with the amount of work you have to do to be ready for the big stuff," Ley said of the women's squad heading to Oregon.
Ley said this is another opportunity for the Bulldogs to establish themselves.
"It's another step along the path preparing to be one of the top teams in it. Taking what we're doing and seeing where we are fitness wise is what we're looking at this weekend. We should be a little further along, a little stronger, a little bit faster than we were Sept. 1. We're a month into the season. Competing at that level it's nice to have some more regionally-ranked teams involved and a nationally-ranked team in Oregon," Ley said of the task ahead.
But the Bulldogs may also look to be a bit more aggressive, but more importantly they need to overcome the fear factor of being in a meet of this dimension.
"In a sense it is going after it a little more, but basically because that's where we should be fitness wise. There should be more to draw on so they can be a little more aggressive, test themselves out against a higher end group of people," Ley said. "One of the things we're looking for is no fear. Let's go in - one through 12 - and know we do belong racing at this level. It's a place to go in, keep your heads up and realize you can do well in that situation and see what the results give us at the end."
The Gonzaga women's line-up will have senior Lindsey Drake; juniors Emily Thomas, Catherine Theobald, Lauren Bergam, Megan Blanchet, and Krista Beyer; sophomores Lara Tuthill, Maggie Jones, Elizabeth Ryan and Becca Barad, and freshmen Taylor Cherry and Amelia Evans.
"This is an experienced line-up," Ley said. "They are rested. Because of the type of training we do this time of year they may feel a little flat at first, but their legs will be under them and I look for a positive result."