After commanding top-place finishes in the races along the West Coast, the Ducks will travel across the country to Terre Haute, Indiana, where they will compete in the Pre-Nationals Invitational on Saturday.
There, they will check out the stomping ground for the NCAA championships that looms just a month away. The last time the Ducks won an NCAA cross-country title was in 2012 after the women ended a 25-year title drought.
After contesting at Louisville, Kentucky, last year, the championships will return to the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, which hosted the competition in 2014.
The women, who will race over six kilometers, will be flagged off at 8 a.m. PST. The men will contest the 8-kilometer course at 8:35 a.m. PST.
Currently, the men rank fourth in the nation and will be the top ranked team at the meet. They will be up against four other teams who currently sit in the top-10 – No. 5 Arkansas, No. 6 Colorado and No. 7 Portland.
The last time the men won the pre-nationals was in 2009. The closest they have come to that was in 2014 when Edward Cheserek led the team to a second-place finish with his individual title. The men will stick to what has been working – they will field Cheserek, who won the first two of his three NCAA individual titles on this course in 2013 and 2014, along with Sam Prakel, Matthew Maton, Tanner Anderson, Blake Haney, Bryan Fernandez, Travis Neuman and Tom Gorman.
Bolstering the team will be freshmen Austin Tamagno and Levi Thomet, who may make their debut in an Oregon singlet on Saturday.
The women, currently ninth in the nation, will battle against top-ranked teams such as No. 2 Colorado, No. 5 Portland, No. 7 Stanford, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 13 Michigan and No. 16 Eastern Michigan. In 2014, the Ducks took second, which is their best finish for this race.
Leading the charge to improve on Oregon’s placing is freshman Katie Rainsberger, who debuted for the Ducks at the Washington Invitational and established herself as Oregon’s top runner. Joining her are Jessica Hull, Ashley Maton, Emma Abrahamson, Maggie Schmaedick, Frida Berge, Sam Nadal and Perrin Xthona, with Alli Cash possibly returning to the fold.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls