Cross country preparing for conference and cold

Mike McGough

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Sacramento State’s cross country team is gearing up for the remainder of its season.

With two races scheduled before they compete Nov. 1 at the Big Sky Championships in Grand Forks, North Dakota, the Hornets have just over three weeks to prepare.

But head coach Joe Eby’s team may not race at the SFSU Invitational Oct. 10 in San Francisco, at least not in full force.

Eby explained the team can drop the race from its schedule and still meet the minimum requirement for a Division I team. With a handful of injured runners on his team, he does not want to risk further injury in a race that is not necessary. Eby could replace the meet with preparatory workouts instead.

As of now, the race is still listed on the team’s schedule. If the team does attend, Eby will send a smaller squad made up of runners who missed the Stanford Invitational Sept. 30, some due to injury, to give the athletes a tune-up.

“The next big one for us where we’ll take our full squad will be our Santa Clara one,” Eby said, referring to the Oct. 18 Santa Clara Bronco Invitational in Sunnyvale. “That will kind of be our last big hurrah before conference.”

The Santa Clara Bronco Invitational will be the team’s final race before the Big Sky Championships.

One runner working through injuries is Zach Kaylor, a fifth-year senior who hopes to recover and help his team.

“This is my last season for cross country, so being able to give as much I can give at the conference meet [is] my only goal,” Kaylor said.

On the women’s team, senior Veronica Stinnett also had her mind on the conference meet.

“I really want to make a big impact at conference, because that’s probably one of the bigger meets I feel like I can really stand out in,” Stinnett said. “I’d like to definitely be at top 10 at conference, and I’d like to see our whole team in top three.”

Stinnett added the team was preparing for an intense weekend workout. The session, called the Michigan workout, consists of alternations between race pace and a slower, “tempo” pace over gradually decreasing distances.

“It’s like a hard workout broken up by tempo stuff, just to really get that feel that you’re in a race,” Stinnett said.

The Nov. 1 conference meet in North Dakota will mark the team’s first race outside of California this season.

With temperatures approaching the 90s to start October, Sacramento’s hot and dry conditions have made cold and wet-weather training difficult. According to Eby, the team often trains at Granite Park on the soccer field shortly after it is watered.

“When we get out there, it’s pretty soggy and wet, so at least we’re used to running on a little softer surface,” Eby said.

Eby added the team ran with the sprinklers on during a recent run at Granite Park. Though not planned, the artificial rain made for good practice.

“It’s hard to simulate the weather here,” Kaylor said. “Mostly we can just control what surface we run on and the effort that we give.”

The conditions halfway across the country can be less than predictable.

“North Dakota on Nov. 1 could be snowing, it could be raining, it could be 60 degrees and sunny,” Eby said. “You’ve just got to bundle up a little bit.”

Eby noted that adjustments can be difficult for less experienced runners.

“The interesting part is taking kids from California out to a place where it could be negative, or zero, or 30 degrees even,” Eby said. “And when it gets down to 30 degrees, they think they’re freezing to death.”

Sac State cross country will next compete at either Oct. 10 at the SFSU Invitational or Oct. 18 at the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational.