03 Dec 2021 | 06:43 | Cross Country
A handful of runners from the Montana cross country teams will be in California on Saturday to compete in the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational.
The meet will take place at Baylands Park in Sunnyvale, which sits hard against the southern tip of San Francisco Bay.
The men’s eight-kilometer race begins at 9:45 a.m. (MT), the women’s six-kilometer race at 10:30 a.m. (MT).
The meet also has men’s and women’s open races. In all, there are more than 900 runners signed up to compete.
First-year coach Clint May will travel with five athletes from his men’s team, five from his women’s team.
Competing in the men’s race will be junior Kyle Peterson, sophomores Will Dauenhauer, Hunter May and Ben Vanderbosch, and redshirt freshman Rogelio Mares.
The course, obviously, is at sea level, and it’s also flat with a fast surface.
“I’m hoping for collegiate personal records for all five guys,” said May. “That can happen if we get into the race. That doesn’t mean we have to be leading, but we can’t get left behind early.
“The pull of the race should take them on a pace that will be faster than they’ve run on other eight-kilometer courses.”
None of the five has broken 25 minutes for an eight-kilometer course in their Montana careers.
Peterson has come the closest, running a 25-flat at last year’s Inland Empire Challenge in Lewiston, Idaho, another course that is flat and fast and known for producing career bests.
Vanderbosch ran a 25:41 on that course last October. Dauenhauer and May both have PR’s at that distance of 26:03, which they ran two weeks ago at elevation at the Montana Invitational.
The last time Montana had someone go sub-25 minutes was last year at the Inland Empire Challenge, when Nathan Wellington ran a 24:56.
The last time the team had multiple runners break 25 minutes, you have to go back to the 2010 Big Sky championship, which was raced on a poorly measured course in Cheney, Wash.
Lynn Reynolds, who finished fifth overall, was given a time of 22:15, and four other Montana runners came through in under 25 minutes (on a team that finished eighth out of nine so … yeah).
The last time it was done on a legitimate course: 2008 at the Big Sky championship in Portland.
“I’d love to see a few of them break 25 minutes. It’s been a while since that happened,” said May.
From the women’s team, the Grizzlies will race with their top five from the last two meets: Seniors June Eastwood and Samantha Engebretsen, sophomores Rachel Torrey and Hannah Wylie, and freshman Beatrix Frissell.
It will be the first time this fall the women’s team has raced a six-kilometer course, which is the distance that will be used at the NCAA Mountain Regional in November.
“We’re taking a step up, yet I’m fully anticipating they go through the five-kilometer mark no slower than they’ve run 5k’s this season,” said May.
“And then it’s not hanging on for dear life and survive. I expect them to race that final kilometer, to still be pressing and chewing up places.”
Frissell and Eastwood have led Montana at its first three races this fall. They had the same time at both the Montana State Classic (17:23 for three miles) and Montana Invitational (17:55 for five kilometers).
Engebretsen has been a steady third all fall.
“I’d expect Bea and June to go through the 5k in under 18 minutes, then be on their way to something around 21-flat,” said May.
“I’m hoping the other gals are in the 18-teens at the 5k mark. If they can break 21:30, that would be a great day for us.”
Engebretsen has a six-kilometer PR of 21:37, set at last year’s NCAA Mountain Regional. Wylie ran a 22:35 at that race, Torrey a 23:02.
“Because of the size of the field, one of our challenges will be assuring them before the race that they could have a great day and still not crack the top 100 but still meet the goals we have,” said May.
“That doesn’t mean it was a bad day. It just means it was a big, big field with some good quality.”
Then comes the season’s top-priority race: the Big Sky championship in Greeley, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Both teams will compete at the NCAA Mountain Regional two weeks later, but for now that race isn’t the one that defines the season, as it does for the region’s top programs.
“I see conference as the pinnacle for us in where we are in our development,” said May. “We’d like to go to conference and place better than we have in the past and walk away feeling like we did really well.
“We know there are some really strong programs in the Big Sky and that we’re not there yet. Then there are some middle programs that are fighting for growth in their programs. Then we’re somewhat at the tail end. We’d like to establish ourselves in that group that is showing promise of growth.”
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