Since their induction into the conference in 1996, Portland State cross country teams have yet to perform particularly well at the Big Sky Championships. This weekend, the determined men’s and women’s teams will attempt to change that.
The Vikings have had the last two weeks off from competitive runs, giving them the opportunity to practice and plan for their big weekend in Idaho.
Last season, PSU was overwhelmed at the races. The men placed seventh among eight teams, while the women could not pull themselves out of a last-place finish.
Evan Garich led the men’s team with a 30th place individual finish and Jenny Rodgers was the most successful Viking women’s runner, coming in at 18th.
The team decided to put a positive spin on the disappointing event. Assistant coach Mike Hickey stated after last year’s competition, “The Big Sky is a tough cross country conference and we got to see what that conference was all about today. It was a really good learning experience for our young runners.”
This season, the Vikings have been working hard for improvement. Hickey and head coach Tony Veney have put an emphasis the last couple of seasons on careful recruiting and heightened physical and mental preparation. As a result, several of the runners have routinely been pushing themselves, turning in better times than ever before in their careers.
Fresh off of her first place finish at the Cal Poly Invitational, Jenny Rodgers is expected to once again set the pace for the women this weekend. Annie Kawasaki placed 24th at the championships last season, also turning in the sixth best freshman time in the race. In 2002, Kawasaki has shown steady improvement and has been running impressively at recent meets.
The men have also been making large strides toward improvement. Veteran Garich continues to lead the team, finishing first among PSU runners at the Cal Poly meet. Chris Hollis is proving to be a strong and consistent asset for the team. Mike Kebbe has also been showing significant improvement over his previous runs.
The strength of these veteran runners combined with the promising advances that were also made this season by newcomers Mandy Peterson, Brynn Cogdill, Bill Dolan and Michael Davenport, could prove to be a winning combination.
The 2002 Big Sky Championships will take place on Saturday, Nov. 2 in Pocatello, Idaho.