Pre-NCAAs to Be Measuring Stick for Cal Men and Women

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Terre Haute, Ind., is where it all begins and ends for the Cal cross country team. This Saturday, the Bears will compete in the Pre-NCAA Invitational hosted by Indiana State.

But they'll have to get real comfortable there, knowing that the NCAA championships will be held by the same gracious host only one month later.

The upcoming preseason invitational will be the best indication of how far along Cal is and where it will end up further in the season. With three regional events already behind them, the men's team is ranked fifth and the women sixth in the West Region.

The Bears have had runners consistently finishing in the top 20, but their most recent event at the Stanford Invitational may have been a bit of a disappointment. Cal finished a seemingly stagnant fifth out of 26 teams.

What looked like a plateau in their climb to the NCAA championships has coach Tony Sandoval certain that the performance was simply the result of an off-weekend.

"We did have some people that were sick that weekend and it really masked their real ability," he said, "but (Stanford) was sort of a sample of what we needed to adjust to, because we need to have our best foot forward this weekend."

So with the start of NCAA cross country craziness, Cal will have to find its footing, and fast. Halfway across the country, the Bears will take to the track - and field some of the highest ranking programs in the nation, among the 71 men's teams and 80 women's teams competing.

Last year, led by Deborah Maier, Cal women finished 13th overall while the men followed Kari Karlsson to an 18th-place finish. This year, the two look as hungry as ever, especially after the way the Stanford Invitational ended for them: Maier was a mere four seconds behind first-place Kathy Kroeger of Stanford and Karlsson finished with an encouraging but not entirely satisfying 20th-place finish.

As for the Bears who will not be taking flight for Indiana State, the Bronco Invitational will also be held on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. Heading over to Baylands Regional Park in Sunnyvale, Calif., many of the Cal runners will race locally - Terre Haute and where they will end up still on their minds.

With the bulk of cross country season fast approaching, it is all a matter of taking it in stride as the Bears attend the preseason-closing and season-foreshadowing pre-NCAA invitational:

"Everything starts with meaning to do well in the NCAA's, being (able) to qualify, and (doing) well in the Pac-10," Sandoval said. "Everything we've done in terms of our training, in terms of our mental preparation is all to be able to take the steps that we're taking right now."

Terre Haute is where it all begins and ends for the Cal cross country team, but as for everything in between, both Sandoval and his team are optimistic.

Tags: CAL CROSS COUNTRY, DEBORAH MAIER


amuel Farahmand covers cross country. Contact him at [email protected]



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