The Florida Gulf Coast University men's cross country team will travel to Pensacola, Fla. to run in the 2006 Pre-National Division II Invitational on Saturday morning. This weekend marks the only time this season that the two Eagles' teams will not compete in the same invitational. The women's squad is headed to Tampa, Fla. on Friday to compete in the FLrunners.com Invitational.
The Pre-Nationals will give the men a great opportunity to run in an organized 10K event before they compete in the NCAA Regionals at the end of the season. Coach Highfield said, "We made an adjustment on the men's side of the schedule which we felt was going to be the most beneficial to their overall training progression and the rest of their competitive season. After talking with our captains, we concluded that running a 10K distance race midseason, would only help the entire team, in the coming months and specially, in our preparation for the Division II South Regional meet in Memphis, TN.
The University of West Florida will host the invitational on a Division II national championship course at the Escambia County Equestrian Center, in Pensacola. The Other teams joining the Eagles include: Queens, Charlotte, Charlotte, Wingate, Florida Tech, Harding, Tampa, Northern Kentucky, Florida Southern, Anderson, and Alabama-Huntsville.
"This is indeed an extraordinary field and we want to take full advantage of this racing opportunity. It's not every weekend that you have a chance to suit up and compete against some of the elite running programs within the south region. We are excited and ready to step up and compete at a high level," added Coach Highfield.
Highfield's squad has steadily improved on their times in every race this season. Junior Mike Harney (North Fort Myers, Fla.) shattered his own 8K school record two weeks ago in the Gator Invitational. The Eagles also saw impressive finishes from freshman Kyle Brunette (Venice, Fla.) and senior Ismael Galicia (Naples, Fla.). Brunette's finish was good enough to break the FGCU freshman 8K record which he set in the previous week's meet.
FGCU's women's cross country team is also coming off of a successful finish in the Gator Invitational. The Eagles finished in the middle of the pack amongst Division I schools and some of the top D-II institutions in the south. The Eagles impressively beat notable Division I institutions, University of Miami, Stetson University, and Florida A&M University. The win over Stetson was very gratifying as the Eagles defeated their future Atlantic Sun Conference rival. Freshman sensation, Abbie Zaspel (Burlington, Wisconsin) broke the school record in the 5K with an impressive time of 19:32.97.
This weekend, the women runners will travel as planned to Tampa to compete in the FLrunners.com Invitational. FGCU competed in this 5K event last season and finished ninth out of 17 teams. The Eagles will look to improve on last year's mark as they begin the second half of their season. After this weekend, FGCU has two more regular season events before both squads will head to Memphis, Tennessee for the NCAA Regional Championship.