Virginia cross country preview: First national meet of the season

Men’s team to compete at Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational and women’s team to compete at Under-Armour Pre-Nationals

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The women's team finished eighth place overall at the Panorama Farms Invitational. They now prepare for their first national meet of the season.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

After three weeks of preparation, the Virginia men’s and women’s cross country teams return to action for their fourth meet of the season. The men kick things off Friday afternoon at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wis., while the women follow Saturday morning at the Under-Armour Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind. 

The last time both teams competed was Sept. 27 for the Panorama Farms Invitational. The men’s team highlighted the meet with a dominant first place overall finish, placing five runners in the top 10. The women’s team ran competitively for eighth place overall.

Meet information

2019 Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational

Acknowledged as one of the largest and most competitive meets of the regular season, the 11th-annual Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational is the preliminary clash of the nation’s top teams. This year’s contest features 16 teams in the top 25, including No. 1 Northern Arizona, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Iowa State, No. 7 Oregon, No. 8 Portland and No. 10 North Carolina State in the top 10. No. 16 Virginia will be surrounded by plenty of competition. The Cavaliers will race at 1 p.m. in the men’s championship 8K race held at Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course. Virginia and the other teams are restricted to seven athletes in the “A” race — the Championship race consisting of the top collegiate entries.

2019 Under-Armour Pre-National Invitational

The Virginia women will run at the Lavern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course, the site of the 2019 NCAA Championships, this Saturday in the Under-Armour Pre-National Invitational. The women’s 6K race gets underway at 11 a.m. with a total of 64 entries. Similarly to the men’s race, the women’s race includes elite programs such as No. 2 BYU, No. 3 Colorado, No. 8 Washington and more. Virginia has entered a total of 12 athletes in the premier event. 

Runners to watch

Sophomore Peter Morris and Junior Rohann Asfaw

Morris and Asfaw have both stood out in their races so far this season. Asfaw has raced and finished in the top 10 at the past two Virginia meets — placing first and ninth. Asfaw led the way for the Cavaliers at the Cavalier Classic and finished fourth on the team at the Panorama Invitational. While less dominant than Asfaw, Morris has made an immediate impact in his first year running cross country. In the first two home meets, Morris also placed in the top 10 on both outings — sixth and 10th. This Friday, look for both younger runners to play significant roles and make contributions to the team overall standings.

Sophomore Abbey Green

Last year’s sole NCAA Championship qualifier will race for the first time this season. While fully participating in training, Green has been held out of competition thus far by the coaching staff. Green’s return is a promising sign for the Cavalier women. Her presence alongside juniors Hannah Moran, Kierra Bothwell and Olivia Sargent will provide a first look at the women’s team full lineup.

Keys to the meet

Attack the Downhills

Zimmer Course in Madison, Wis., and Gibson Course in Terre Haute, Ind., incorporate plenty of hills for the athletes. While ascending the hill can create some separation and distance between athletes, running the downhills quickly and efficiently can be one of the easiest ways to shave off critical time. While the athletes know proper downhill running form, cross country races are tough and it’s easy to lose form over the course of the long, grueling competition. For most, the downhill provides a momentary opportunity to rest. However, in order to gain a competitive advantage in a sport where everyone is fit, the downhill can also be a place to regain position or make a move ahead. If Virginia can take advantage here, both cross country courses will become a lot more manageable.

Run as a Pack

With both races entering 25 plus teams per race, the course will be packed with runners. As the race progresses, multiple groups will form and break up. Surrounded by a mob of runners, it is easy to lose track of time and position. Contact with other Virginia runners in a pack prevents this disorientation. The beginning of the race is the most common time to lose connection and get detached from the main action. If the Virginia men can get through the first 5K in packs and the women can get through the first 3K in packs, they will have positioned themselves successfully for the second half of the race.

The schedule

Men’s race: 1 p.m. in the 2019 Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational Men’s Championship 8K Race

Women’s race: 11 a.m. in the 2019 Under-Armour Pre-National Invitational Women’s Blue 6K

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