TERRE HAUTE, IND. - For the first time in nine years, Indiana State will be on the road for the annual Pre-National Invitational as the 2012 edition will be held at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., the site of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's National Championship. The University of Louisville is the host school for this year's championship which will return to Terre Haute, Ind., in 2013.
The first of four races (men's seeded) will feature the Indiana State men and start at 9:30 a.m. (ET). The Sycamore women will run in the women's unseeded race at 10:30 a.m.
"This is our chance to run on the championship course," John McNichols, Indiana State men's cross country coach, said. "This will be good for our athletes if we have any aspirations of making it to the national championships this year."
Third-ranked Brigham Young leads the 39 teams in the Men's seeded race. Other ranked teams that are scheduled to compete include seventh ranked Colorado, ninth ranked Tulsa, 12th ranked Villanova, 14th ranked Florida State, 15th ranked Oregon, 20th ranked Georgetown, and 23rd ranked College of William and Mary. McNichols said all of the teams in the race are ranked regionally except for Greensboro who just happens to have one of the best individuals in the country.
"The overall strength of this meet is that there is not any weak links," McNichols said. "It is going to be very, very competitive."
The 8,000 meter course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park has a difficult opening which could cause problems for the field.
"There are some uniqueness's to this course that we will have to figure out how to negotiate," McNichols said. "Our pre-meet run on Friday will be really important for our team to visualize the trouble spots and how they are going to handle them.
Unlike Indiana State's LaVern Gibson championship course, the course at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park has a difficult opening that features a narrow stretch over a bridge 400 meters in and a severe 180 degree turn 800 meters into the race.
"The question will be do you get to the top, run all out to try, clear these areas and suffer a little bit with your pace after that or do you sit back in the middle, negotiate these areas and then try to pass as many people as you can after that," McNichols said. "Trouble with sitting back is that there will be 160 good athletes that you will have to pass to get back up towards the top."
While the men's race will be an 8,000 meter run, the women will go 6,000 meters for the first time this season.
"I am not a huge fan of running that distance at this time but that is the way the race is structured," John Gartland, Indiana State women's cross country coach, said.
Gartland expects the race to be highly competitive even though it is the unseeded race with 25 teams vying in the team competition and a total of 45 boxes being filled at the start.
"Most of the teams that we are going up against are not regionally ranked but that does not mean that there are not any good schools in the race," Gartland said. "The large numbers in this race are due to Louisville placing the eight through 12 runners from the seeded teams into the race unlike what we did for a decade which was to open a third (open) race. I think this is a mistake and it is going to make it very congested. We will just have to see how it comes out after the gun goes off."
"Jessica has an outstanding meet at Notre Dame, finishing sixth in 17:50 which is her best by far," Gartland said. "We do have a solid four with Nicole, Hanna, and Kalli running with Jessica. We have to dip down in to our developing athletes after that and we will see how they handle their first 6,000 meter race."
Indiana State has hosted the NCAA Championships in nine of the last 10 years including eight straight from 2004 through 2011 on the often imitated but never duplicated LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.