TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama men's and women's cross country teams resume competition tomorrow with its first true test against a national field at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, October 1, in South Bend, Ind.
A total of 48 teams are entered in the event with the men's Blue Division race featuring eight teams ranked in the top 30 nationally including the Crimson Tide at No. 5. Teams expected to push the men's squad include No. 3 Oregon, No. 14 Villanova and No. 16 New Mexico in the 5-mile race slated to begin at 4 p.m. CDT.
The women's Blue Division is equally strong with the top three teams in the nation - No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Washington – in a 24-team field that features a total of 12 ranked teams. The Tide's women will take off on the 5-kilometer course at 3:15 p.m. CDT
"We're excited to get back to South Bend and looking forward to competing in that environment," head men's cross country coach Joe Walker said. "It's a typically fast course and they have a really good lineup of teams coming in. It's a really good test for us."
Walker has been pleased with the squad's training over the last month as well as getting veterans Moses Kiptoo and Andrew Kirwa back into form from minor injuries, but stresses the need for continual improvement over the next month.
"We're getting better and better every practice and at this stage that's the key, to see improvement every week," Walker said. "I don't think we'll lineup now as the team that hopefully we're capable of being in November but we've still got to show up and compete."
Randy Hasenbank's women's team is up against one of the toughest fields in the nation as well and he is equally anxious to see how his team responds to the competitive field.
"It's a big-time event and a great competition," Hasenbank said. "I want us to get in there and compete at a very high level and hopefully surprise some teams."
In the team's first two races of the season it was paced by junior Andrea Torske's two top-5 finishes and very strong showings from sophomores Leigh Gilmore and Katlyn Will. Hasenbank is looking for continued strong showings from that group and a solid race from his deep team.
"I want to see some of our stars shine and I want to see our team be aggressive up front." Hasenbank added. "We've trained hard and we've trained fast and I want them to take more risks and get out front and push."
Following Friday's meet, the teams will have a weekend off to continue their training before heading back to Indiana on October 16 for the Pre-NCAA meet in Terre Haute on the same course that the NCAA Championships are contested on.