The season is winding down to the most import part of the year: the postseason. This weekend, the Cal cross country team will be competing in its last four races of the regular season before the Pac-12 Championships.
The Bears are set to compete Saturday at the Pre NCAA Invitational and the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational. Once again, Cal will be split up into four teams, as some Bear runners will head to Terre Haute, Indiana while the rest will go south to Sunnyvale, California.
In Terre Haute, the women will open up their day at 11 a.m. in the 6K blue race on the Lavern Gibson Championship Course. Cal will go up against four teams ranked in top 10 of the USTFCCCA women’s rankings — strong Pac-12 foes that include No. 2 Colorado, No. 7 Stanford, No. 9 Oregon and No. 5 Portland.
Following this event is the men’s 8K blue race at 11:35 a.m., where the Bears will again try to mix it up with elite competition. Four of the top-10 teams in the men’s rankings will make their presence felt as No. 4 Oregon, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Colorado and No. 7 Portland are set to take the track.
“Racing this weekend will be very important for when we are back at nationals in Terre Haute six weeks from now,” said Cal head coach Shayla Houlihan. “The experience and knowledge that is gained by racing this course is incalculable.”
Meanwhile at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational, Cal will have a men’s team set to run at 9 a.m. on the Baylands Regional Park in the 8K Invite. The women will follow up 45 minutes later as they line up and close out this part of the morning in the 6K Invite.
“(Santa Clara) will be a very important race for us as well,” Houlihan said. “We are mixing in new people to our Indiana travel squad, meaning we are leaving back some of our top competitors in the process.”
This weekend, Cal’s runners will get their final opportunity of the season to showcase their capability in races against the nation’s best. For those who were not chosen to run at the Joe Piane Invitational two weeks ago in South Bend, the long-awaited opportunity to compete is finally here. Those that will make the trip to Indiana this time around will get a chance to experience for themselves a nationally competitive atmosphere.
The last races of the regular season can move runners who have yet to be really noticed up or down their team’s depth chart. This, therefore, is an essential time for every Cal athlete because only seven runners on the men’s and women’s teams will make the lineup for the conference championships.
“The team is following along in the process of this part of the season,” Houlihan said. “Keeping perspective of what is to come is very important at this time and I feel everyone has done a nice job of it thus far.”
Oscar Oxlaj covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected]