Springfield, Ore. — The men’s and women’s Oregon cross country teams made their season debuts at the 12th annual Dellinger Invite on a wet and rainy Friday morning at the Springfield Country Club. Oregon’s women took first with 33 points as they finished in the top three spots while Oregon’s men finished third with 75 points, with their best finish coming from freshman Cooper Teare, who finished ninth.
Oregon’s women, who are looking to defend their triple crown title from last year, dominated the race from the start. Sophomore Katie Rainsberger took the lead right from the gun and quickly distanced herself from the pack. With about one kilometer to go in the six-kilometer race, it was clear Rainsberger was on the verge of doing something special. She crossed the finish line in first place with a time of 18 minutes, 47 seconds, a staggering 37 seconds faster than the previous course record. Oregon went one through three, with Australians Lilli Bourdon and Jessica Hull going 19:05 and 19:07, respectively.
Oregon went one through three in the women’s race, with sophomore Lilli Bourdon and junior Jessica Hull going 19:05 and 19:07, respectively. Both of Hull’s and Bourdon’s times were well under the previous course record of 19:24, which was set by Kendra Schaaf of the University of Washington at the Pac-12 Championships back in 2008.
On the race Friday, 12 other runners went under the previous record. Some think that the course wasn’t the official six kilometers it should have been.
“There’s no way it’s 6K,” head coach for the women’s team Maurica Powell said. “But it doesn’t matter. … They beat some good teams. They were competitive. But the thing I’m trying to impress upon them now is that our early season wins mean as much as our early season losses last year.”
On the men’s side, Teare made the most of his collegiate debut. He finished the eight-kilometer race in 23:52, good enough for a ninth-place finish.
“Just to have the ‘O’ on it’s awesome,” said a muddy, but pleased Teare after the race. “Definitely a good first race.”
Even early in the year, it’s clear Oregon’s depth can take them far. Sophomore Lilli Bourdon, who arrived late for cross her freshman year and then redshirted last season, hasn’t raced on a cross-country course in 2 1/2 years. But her second-place finish helped Oregon to a team score of 33, while second-place Stanford and third-place BYU scored 66 points and 78 points, respectively.
Teare said that Oregon’s depth will be a strong-point in the coming season.
“I think on any given day there could be five or six of us as the first Oregon Duck,” he said.
Both athletes and coaches alike use the term “keep the blinders on” multiple times after the race. It’s a formula that worked for them last year, and both Rainsberger and Powell see no reason to change it.
“The early season meets are just learning experiences and seeing what you can do, so today I just wanted to see where I was at,” Rainsberger said. “We have work to do. We have more races to run, things to learn. It’s a good step, but we still have more to do.”
Follow August Howell on Twitter @howell_august