By SAM NEFF
The women’s cross country team is headed to the University of Minnesota this weekend to run against at least five top-25 teams at the Roy Griak Invitational.
Coach Patrick Shane said he will rest most of the runners that ran last week. Tara Rohatinsky, Tara Haynes and Kristen Barnes are some of the runners that will be running for the first time this season. Kara Ormond, who finished sixth at last week’s invitational, will also run for the Cougars.
Haynes was the fourth runner for the Cougars two years ago when they won the national championship, and Rohatinsky was an All-American last year in track. Although Shane said Rohatinsky is still not in top shape because she missed some practices due to illness, he still expects her to be one of the top runners.
While Shane will not run all of his top athletes, he said he believes the team he is sending to Minnesota should be about as good as the team he ran last week.
“There won’t be as many runners up front, but this team has a lot more depth,” Shane said.
Depth will be important against a large field of good teams. At least 25 universities will compete in the race, including top-20 powerhouses like No. 10 Providence, No. 15 Northern Arizona, No. 17 Boston College and No. 20 UCLA. BYU is ranked No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll.
“Providence always runs good. They’ve won this meet for the last few years,” Shane said.
He said he also looks forward to facing No. 6 Wisconsin, which may compete.
Shane said he expects his team to continue to improve throughout the year. This meet will give him a chance to see the strengths of some of the other runners on the team, he said.
“To have a good team you need depth,” Shane said.
A strong performance will also be important in the national rankings, which to some degree determine some of the teams that will compete at nationals. The top two teams from nine regions are invited to nationals. The rest of the teams must compete for six or seven at-large bids, which are given to other top teams.