FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – A week after taking part in the Aztec Invite from San Diego, the Northern Arizona cross country teams hit the road again with a trip north to Palo Alto, Calif., to compete in the 37th running of the Stanford Invitational. The men will take to the 8K course at 10:50 a.m. PT, with the women following at 11:30.
This will be the first 6,000-meter event for the women this season.
Saturday's races will have a postseason feel to them as the men's contest will feature the top-ranked Cardinal, No. 4 NAU, No. 15 Arkansas, last week's winner of the Aztec Invite UCLA and five top-15 teams from the West Region.
The women's 6K features the No. 13 Cardinal, California, UC Davis, San Francisco, Loyola Marymount, UCLA, Cal Poly and Long Beach State, who are all ranked in the top-15 in the West Region.
"It's great to be able to go up against top competition this early in the season," Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Eric Heins said. "Anytime you have multiple ranked teams in a race, it brings out the best in your athletes."
Heins will also use this race as a gauge to where his teams are and what they need to work on before Pre-Nationals on Oct. 16.
"This race will give me a chance to see what we need to work on during the three-week break leading up to Pre-Nats," Heins said.
Saturday's competition won't just be a showdown of top-five teams, but will be a chance for senior David McNeill and Stanford junior Chris Derrick to race head-to-head once again. McNeill, who will be making his final season debut for the Lumberjacks, bested Derrick by one spot at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships after finishing runner-up in the event, and most recently topped him at the NCAA Outdoor Championships when he won the 5K national title.
Joining McNeill on the course Saturday will be fellow senior Jason Pedersen, juniors Andrew Belus and Matthew Coloe, sophomores Tim Freriks and Joe Withers and freshmen Daniel Filipcik and Bahlbi Gebreyohanns. It will be Coloe and Gebreyohann's collegiate debuts.
The women's team will run its top six from a week ago, including senior Danielle Hunt, junior Lisette Michaels, sophomores Alex Myers and Lyndsey Rakestraw and freshmen Carissa Gwerder and Sarah Raber.