Ready to make a statement
The Oregon women are calm and focused, confident in their preparation and performance in training camp. An admirable mindset, going into what many expect to be a coming out party.
“Everyone has really upped their training and everyone is feeling really good so we’re just excited to get out there and shake off the rust from the summer,” said junior Alex Kosinski. “We’re excited and I think everyone will do really well.”
Ranked second in the nation by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association, the reigning NCAA runner-up Ducks are expected to run all of their top women during the Bill Dellinger Invitational, beginning today at 3:30 p.m. at Springfield Country Club. The women will be tested by two ranked teams – No. 5 Villanova and No. 14 Baylor – along with Colorado State, Hawaii, Oregon State, Portland, San Francisco, UTEP and Weber State. Though there is no telling what sort of statement the Ducks intend to make, if any, they will surely run with a sense of purpose.
“For me being a senior, everything’s my last race,” said Nicole Blood, who won the Dellinger individual title in 2007. “Really I just want to go out there and finish. Every meet is going to be really important to me.”
Joining Blood and Kosinski — last year’s Dellinger individual champion — will be freshman Jordan Hasay, making her collegiate debut. The heralded prep star is a two-time winner of the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships, the highest level of cross country competition in the high school ranks.
“She had made an incredibly easy transition to being part of the team,” head coach Vin Lananna said of the Arroyo Grande, Calif.-native. “She was her own team in high school, and she seems to have fit in well.”
Hasay leads a group of eight freshman runners who are vying for time with the Ducks this season and will have ample opportunity to display their skill on the 5,000m course.
“All of them are fitting in really well,” Kosinski said. “The team really has good chemistry this year.”
Crowded men’s field
While the women test out new runners and establish their depth, the men will experience what Lananna simply refers to as “life after Galen Rupp.”
The Ducks, who will begin their 8,000m run at 4:15 p.m. today, face a field emblazoned in national rankings and respect. No. 8 Portland, No. 9 Alabama, No. 12 BYU, and No. 18 Cal Poly will all compete against the Ducks, along with Colorado State, San Francisco, Villanova, UTEP and Weber State.
“We’re all confident in each other,” junior Matthew Centrowitz said, “and we’re all acting like we’re just as good as we could be. We’re just going about it, working harder than we ever had.”
Nine of the top 20 finishers from the last year’s Dellinger meet return, including runner-up and All-American Alfred Kipchumba of Portland. Two other All-Americans from last season — Luke Puskedra of Oregon and Nicodemus Ng’etich of UTEP — return for this year.
Life after Galen Rupp will become stark reality once the men of Oregon line up for the starting gun.
“The atmosphere at preseason camp it was definitely evident that we’re lacking two big veterans and it’s just one of those things where everyone’s got to step up,” Centrowitz said. “We have a lot of juniors and seniors that have been around for a while now and we know that we’re all going to be relying on each other now more than ever.”
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