Cross country races to season’s finish line

This weekend is going to be a major one for the Portland State men’s and women’s cross country teams as they wrap up the regular season with back-to-back races.

This weekend is going to be a major one for the Portland State men’s and women’s cross country teams as they wrap up the regular season with back-to-back races. The teams compete today at the Clackamas Community College-hosted Mike Hodges Invitational in Oregon City, and tomorrow in the Dellinger Invitational at Pre’s Trail in Alton Baker Park in Eugene. 

Although the teams face races on consecutive days, the squads will split up for the two competitions. Six men and women will compete at the Dellinger on Saturday, and the rest of the teams will race in the Mike Hodges.

Hopes are high for the runners and the teams as a whole to do well. According to assistant coach Cassie Stilley, the teams have recently changed their practices. Instead of mostly working on mileage and long distances, the focus has moved to shorter and quicker distances to help prepare them for this weekend. Stilley hopes that changing the concentration from long-distance runs to short and fast intervals will result in fast times over the weekend.

Both teams have been running admirably this season, and are expected to do well today and tomorrow. Since many of the cross country runners also run track and field, which is more based on individual performance, the team has worked this season to help build cohesion.

“Every runner is important, and it’s important for everyone to run well together,” Stilley said.

One runner to look out for this weekend is sophomore Julie Pedersen, who finished at the top of the Vikings’ charts in the last two races. Pederson is considered to be one of Portland State’s top female runners and finished the 5-kilometer in 17th place overall at the Willamette Invitational earlier this month with a time of 17 minutes, 57.37 seconds. Other notable women runners are sophomore Amber Rozcicha, junior Katie Blue and senior Karissa Fuller.

“All the women have been working really hard this year,” Stilley said. “There is a lot of talent, and people seem to be putting pieces together at the right time.”

As for the men, seniors John Lawrence and Andrew Salg each ran exceptionally well in their last meet. Both finished the 8K in under 25 minutes, a feat that has not been accomplished by a Portland State runner in six years. Lawrence finished with a time of 24:52.49 for 34th place, and Salg was nipping at his heels with a time of 24:59.26 for 39th place.

These upcoming meets are more than just another race for the runners; they are preparing for the Big Sky Conference Championship on Oct. 30 in Cheney, Wash.

“At these meets, it is not only important to run well, but to also help prepare for the conference championship,” Stilley said.  

The biggest and most prestigious race of this weekend is the Dellinger Invitational. For the Viking men, competition will be against nationally ranked teams such as No. 3 Oregon, No. 8 Portland and No. 11 Wisconsin. The women will be competing against No. 2 Oregon, as well as Idaho, Willamette and Wisconsin. 

“This weekend is going to be some really tough competition,” Stilley said. “We are excited to be returning [to the Dellinger Invitational] again this year. It will feel good to test ourselves against some really good competition before the championship.” ?