Eastern will get first look at another Big Sky Conference school
The Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams will head to Seattle, Wash., Saturday (Sept. 15) for the Sundodger Invitational, hosted by the University of Washington at Lincoln Park.
The Eagle men will run in the 8,000, while the women will compete in the 6,000. Last year at the same meet, the women placed fifth in the invite section with 139 points. Due to an injury, the men were unable to place, as only four runners finished for Eastern.
“The easy answer for what I want them to get out of this weekend is experience, but I also want them to get a little more of a competitive vibe from this meet,” head coach Chris Zeller said. “Our first meet had some quality teams for sure, but it was a little more low-key.”
The Sundodger Invitational has open and invite sections for collegiate teams, but it also features high school races, which brings in more of a crowd to Zeller’s liking.
“Sundodger has more of a big meet feel to it. I’m hoping for us to get that competitive spirit like what we’ll see at conference,” Zeller said.
This weekend will also give the Eagles a first look at one of those Big Sky opponents, as Portland State will be competing as well.
“Certainly University of Washington is the juggernaut there,” Zeller said. “But Portland State is definitely a team we’ll be keying off of.”
On the women’s side, Zeller is expecting sophomore Danie Moon to have a strong showing this weekend.
“I’m excited to see if Danie can close the gap a bit on Berernice Penaloza. She’s been doing a great job in practice and that’s kind of her next step, but at the same time you want to see Berenice fight her off too,” Zeller said.
For the men, Zeller expects true freshman David Thor to build off his strong debut at the Clash of the Inland Northwest. He also hopes to see Quin Olivas and Nathan Fall show improvement after having strong weeks at practice.
“I’m really excited to see what David can do as a freshman in that environment,” Zeller said, “Sundodger tends to be a pretty fast course with harder surfaces, so I think it will be a course that lends itself to his strengths.”
The Eagles will be without team captain Jordan Curnutt, who will be out for a few more weeks recovering from a knee injury. To keep the Eastern men at the team minimum of five, Zeller has added Brandon Nobach to the roster-- a 2008 graduate of Marysville-Pilchuck High School who has experience racing in multiple Spokane Bloomsday runs.
“We want to build off of what we did at the last meet and just keep gradually improving,” Zeller said, “We like to look at season-long progression and we just need to stay consistent and keep on that path.”