FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona University cross country teams are primed for their first road tests of the season as they travel to Santa Claritas, Calif. for the PAC-12 Preview Elite Invitational Friday evening.
"Every race we go into, because we're not competing every week or twice a week like other sports, I expect everyone to go out and compete at the highest level," said Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Eric Heins. "This weekend is really important because it begins the competition season for scoring wins over other teams to help qualify a team for the national championships."
Both teams will be led by Flagstaff natives for the first time in NAU cross country history this weekend, as 2010 Sinagua High School grad Brian Shrader heads the men and 2008 Coconino alum Rochelle Kanuho captains the women.
The UCLA Invitational will be first of two challenging meets for the Lumberjacks, and will give both teams a look at some national-caliber competition, as well as some teams they can expect to compete with at the Mountain Region Championships in November.
"Going up against schools outside of our region like UCLA, Cal Poly, Arizona State, and Clemson, in addition to teams like New Mexico from our region, will be a great test to see where we're at as a team," said Heins, whose men finished 14th overall at last year's NCAA Championships. "Practice has been going very well, and we've been getting better every week."
The NAU women are slated to run first as part of the Women's 5K Invite at 5:40 p.m. Arizona time, with the men following in the 8K Invite at 6:20 from the Robinson Ranch Golf Course.