The Arkansas State University women's and men's cross country will have a final opportunity to compete prior to the upcoming conference meet as the Red Wolves take part in the Indiana State Pre-National Invitational and the UALR Invitational this Saturday (Oct. 19).
The A-State women's team, which is eighth in the latest (Oct. 7) United States Track and Field & Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Central Region rankings, will have split squads running in this Saturday's competition. The Red Wolves will have selected runners participating in the 6K Indiana State Pre-National Invitational's Blue Race, which is set an 11:40 a.m. (CT) start and will be held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind. The 50-plus team meet will have 13 schools presently ranked in the USTFCCCA's NCAA Division I National Women's Cross Country Coaches' Poll such as number two Florida State, #5 Georgetown, and #6 Oregon among others. The A-State women's squad has finished among the top three teams three times in its four meets this season, highlighted by first-place performances at the Saint Louis Big River Forest Park Festival (Sept. 13) and the Rhodes College Invitational (Sept. 28). Junior Kristina Aubert, a three-time Sun Belt Conference Runner of the Week selection (Sept. 4, Oct. 2 & 9) this season, has led the Red Wolves in their fourmeets to date this fall. Junior Rexi Parcells along with sophomore Abbey Dixon and junior Tilda Helgesson have also been A-State's top runners so far this campaign.
"As a team, this will be the first time we have competed in a national caliber event," said A-State head coach Kyle Chandler. "While it will be a learning experience, I fully expect our women will have the mental focus to put forth their best efforts in competing against the top teams in the country. Our individual and team success will be largely based upon the degree to which our women can plan an effective race strategy and then work out that strategy as the race progresses."
The remaining A-State team members will travel to Little Rock, Ark., for the UALR Invitational with the women's 5K race starting at 10 a.m. (CT) and the men's 8K to follow at 10:45 a.m. (CT). The spectator-friendly Rebsamen Golf Course is the site for the UALR Invite.
"Though we will not have our full complement of women runners at UALR (Invitational), we do have several who are competing for spots on the conference and regional championship squads," said Chandler. "Like the men, this should help motivate our runners in contributing to a strong team finish."
The A-State men, who have compiled three top-five team placings this fall, will field a full squad at this Saturday's (Oct. 19) UALR Invitational. Sophomore Wil Norris, junior Luke Lindsley, and sophomore Lance Beckman have been the Red Wolves' top three finishers in their four meets this season.
"This will be the last opportunity to see all of men's team runners competing on the same course at the same time," said Chandler. "Our improved depth has created significant competition among team members to earn sports on the conference and regional championship squads. Ultimately, this inner team competition has helped us get better as a unit, which has been exciting to witness this year.
Following this Saturday's (Oct. 19) action, Arkansas State is off for a week as the Red Wolves prepare for the 2013 Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Cross Country Championships on Nov. 2 at Troy, Ala.