The cross country Big Ten Championships meet is more than two weeks away, but the Ohio State men’s and women’s cross country teams will get a chance to run against championship-level competition Friday.
The Buckeyes will run at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational Oct. 14 in Madison, Wis. The meet will feature a number of ranked teams. Nineteen men’s teams are ranked in the top 30 in the country with the women’s field including 18 of the top 30 teams.
OSU men’s head coach Robert Gary said having such a high number of good teams at one meet outside of the NCAA National Championship is a rarity.
“This is an unprecedented number of great teams, usually you don’t get this many good teams at one meet until the national meet,” he said.
Coaches from both OSU’s men’s and women’s teams said they are excited their runners are getting a chance to compete at a high level before championship season.
“I think one of the good things about this meet is you have such good competition,” OSU women’s assistant coach Chris Neal said. “I think it’s a good chance for some of our girls to get out and run fast.”
Another aspect of the meet that intrigues both coaches is the amount of Big Ten teams that will be in Madison: nine for the men and 10 for the women. A number of teams that the Buckeyes will run against at the Great Lakes regional meet are also a part of the field.
Gary said he is looking forward to seeing how his team measures up with the rest of the conference and teams from OSU’s region.
Viewing the meet as a “trial run” for the Big Ten championship is something the women are doing according to Neal.
“This (meet) will allow us to see where we line up and what moves we need to make over the next couple weeks,” he said.
The men will be without one of their top runners, redshirt senior Jake Edwards, who injured his hamstring at the Notre Dame Invitational Sept. 30.
Even though Edwards isn’t running, the men think a top-10 finish is possible.
“That’d be great,” junior Donny Roys said. “Getting in the top 10 will show that we’re meant to be at the national meet.”
The women have aspirations of a high team finish as well, redshirt senior Jordan Jennewine said.
“I think as a team we’d really love to be around top 20,” she said.
In order for both teams to reach their place goals, running as a pack will be key.
“I think we just need to get out and stay together,” Roys said. “We need to work on the last couple miles and staying together from the beginning.”
Jennewine said having a small split between the first and fifth runner is important for the women to run well.
“We already talked about keeping the spread small, and we’ll really keep our point total down,” she said. “When you have a lot of good teams, that’s basically the key to winning.”
Coach Neal agreed.
“When you’re talking about a field of this size, 15 seconds can be 40 points,” he said. “So, we really have to get our fifth and sixth runners to be up where our two through four runners are.”
After running on Friday, the women will have a week off before the Big Ten Championship meet Oct. 30. The men will run at the Eastern Michigan Fall Classic Oct. 21.