Cross CountrySports

Oregon cross country teams look to continue early-season success at Saturday’s Pre-Nationals Invitational

Entering Saturday’s Pre-National Invitational at Terre Haute, Indiana, Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins have established themselves at the front of the Oregon men’s cross country pack.

Cheserek, the reigning NCAA champion, is coming off a historic freshman campaign. Jenkins, a former All-American at 5,000 meters who transferred from Northeastern University last year, went stride for stride with Cheserek at the Battle of Beantown meet earlier this month. After Cheserek and Jenkins, however, the rest of the scoring spots are up for grabs for No. 2 Oregon.

The Ducks boast a parade of strong harriers jockeying for a spot on the squad come championship season. Senior Daniel Winn is a returnee from last year’s Pac-12 runner-up team and has finished fifth overall at both of the meets that the men’s team has run this season. But when asked on Wednesday whether he felt that his spot is secure, Winn admitted that wasn’t the case.

“We’ve got a huge group that’s really interchangeable,” Winn explained. “I was fifth both times but we had two guys right ahead of me at Dellinger and two guys right behind me at Boston, so it seems like a really interchangeable and deep group.”

Junior Matthew Melancon and freshman Travis Neuman finished just ahead of Winn at the Dellinger Invitational with Melancon and freshman Sam Prakel finished within shouting distance behind the senior in Boston. Those four, along with senior Tanguy Pepiot, sophomore Jake Leingang and freshman Blake Haney will make the trek to Terre Haute to try and leave a lasting impression on head coach Robert Johnson with the Pac-12 Championships on the horizon.

“We took basically a core group to Boston and we kind of established a 1-2-3-4-5,” Johnson said. “Then the next weekend we took some guys to the Willamette meet… so then you’re trying to round out your depth — who’s going to be 5-6-7-8. We’re going to take them to Pre-Nationals to see if we made the right choices; basically a trial and error thing there to make sure that what we see in practices and workouts is actually going to happen on race day.”

In addition to getting familiar with the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the home of November’s National Championships, the Ducks will get the chance to face off against No. 1 Colorado, their Pac-12 rivals and reigning NCAA champions. The Buffaloes return all seven members of last year’s championship team and will also return 2012 All-American Jake Hursyz, who missed last season due to injury.

On the women’s side, the third-ranked Ducks are coming off a win over No. 6 Stanford at the Washington Invitational. Senior Lindsay Crevoiserat finished fourth overall at the meet while the next five Ducks finished within an 11-second spread. Maggie Schmaedick, a sophomore and Eugene native, was the fourth Duck to stop the clock in Seattle and feels that the team’s success can continue into Saturday’s race.

“It was definitely a good fitness check but also a good gut check,” Schmaedick said. “Everybody was fighting for points all the way to the very end, so that’s a good gut check going in. We know we can be tough when we need to be so it definitely gives us confidence going into the Pre-Nationals meet.”

No. 1 Michigan State, No. 4 Georgetown and No. 7 Colorado will also toe the starting line in the women’s 6,000-meter race, which begins at 8:00 a.m. PDT. The men’s 8,000-meter race is scheduled to start at 8:35 a.m. PDT.

Follow Chris Mosch on Twitter @chris_mosch

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