PROVO -- The BYU cross country teams will have an opportunity to position themselves among the favorites for national titles as they participate in the Pre-National Invitational this Saturday, a warm-up for the NCAA Championships in November.
The Pre-Nationals, held in Bloomington, Ind., are meant to be a dress rehearsal for the Nov. 22 NCAA finals, which will also take place in Bloomington.
"It will be a major meet," said BYU men's coach Sherald James. "You get to see exactly where you are in relation to the competition and get a good idea of the terrain."
The men, ranked No. 7 in the nation, are finally in race shape after battling injury and illness throughout the beginning of the season. All of the runners have had the flu, and several are still feeling its effects.
Although Coach James is admittedly surprised by his team's high ranking, he feels that the team's best races are still ahead of it. "I was really surprised after the Minnesota meet, but I always had a feeling we'd be really good. If the team is healthy, with consistent training, I feel we can be in the top five," said James.
BYU's women, healthy and with a full roster, should have their best race of the season. "We will run better in this race than we have all season. We're more prepared than we have been in earlier races," said Coach Patrick Shane.
For the first time this season, the No. 3 Cougars will send their top six runners to the starting line. Practices have been lighter in the last two weeks, although the athletes have still been hard at work.
Coach Shane sees the race as valuable preparation for the championships next month. "It would have helped tremendously last year, when we didn't participate in the pre-national. The run-through is great for mental imagery and visualization. We'll learn the course and will be confident for when we go back."
The meet will include a majority of the nation's best talent. The women's draw will include eight of the top ten teams and 17 in the top 25. Six of the top ten and 14 of the top 25 men's teams will also compete. In all, 51 men's and 53 women's teams are scheduled to compete.
Events are scheduled to begin Saturday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. CDT. Results will be available online at www.athletics.indiana.edu