MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – After a 1,701 mile trek the Eagles have landed in The Twin Cities ready to capitalize on the early success of this season in Saturday’s 28th-annual Roy Griak Invitational. Racing through the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course, the 8k Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold race is scheduled to begin at 1:20 p.m. ET followed by the 6k Jack Johnson Women’s Gold competition at 2:10 p.m.
While the host city’s nickname suggests a desire to be paired in similarity with something else, the Eagles are looking to do just the opposite as they aim to make a name for themselves racing against a slate of dynastic programs.
Composed of seven squads ranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll and eight that raced in last year’s 2012 NCAA Championships, this weekend’s field is arguably the most competitive in FGCU history. Naming a total 22 programs, the FGCU men’s team will face No. 4 BYU, No. 24 N.C. State and No. 29 Arizona State, while the women’s 25-member field lists No. 5 Arizona, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 20 Vanderbilt, No. 21 N.C. State and No. 26 Iowa State.
“This weekend is a huge opportunity for us,” head coach Cassandra Goodson said. “Competing against multiple teams that will most likely end their season at the NCAA Championships is huge. We’ve been pushing ourselves over the past few weeks to prepare for this challenge, but I know we’re ready."
High-caliber opponents aside, the Eagles look forward to Saturday with confidence, especially after proving their ability to hang with high-major programs through their stand-out finishes at UF’s Mountain Dew Invite earlier this month.
LIONS, HATTERS AND CANES! BYE BYE!
Two meets into the 2013 season, as a team the Eagles have soared past a group of notorious opponents, including LSU, Miami, Stetson, USF and FAU. At the highly-competitive Mountain Dew Invite the men clinched a program-best fourth-place finish while the women placed 11th, after both teams took home first place at the Westminster Academy Collegiate Invite.
As the first FGCU runner crossed the finish line in every race this season a record was set. Every time Kelly Perzanowski (St. Clairsville, Ohio/St. Clairsville HS) has posted so far this season can be seen at the top of the FGCU record book. Starting at the Westminster Academy Collegiate Invite, she clocked a record 11:59.42 in the 3500m before winning the Mountain Dew invite 6k with a 20:45.06 to replace the previous record of 22:02.60 she set last season. Joining Perzanowski’s times at the top are Nathan Kandie’s (Iten, Kenya/Arizona) 15:42.36 5k at the Westminster Academy Collegiate Invite and Argeo Cruz’s (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee HS) 24:52.00 8k at the Mountain Dew invite.
Joining Perzanowski to race this weekend are Stephanie Cajas (Lithia, Fla./Newsome HS), Courtney Corradetti (Oceanside, Calif./Vista HS), Kelsey English (Oakhurst, N.J./Ocean Township HS), Regan Farrow (Oviedo, Fla./Lake Howell HS), Gretchen MacMillan (Ocala, Fla./West Port HS), Emily Perkinson (Orlando, Fla./Colonial HS), Amanda Restivo (Mount Laurel, N.J./Lenape HS) and Alicen Wilbur (Pine Island, Fla./Ida S. Baker HS).
Joining Cruz and Kandie on the course this weekend are Charles Bengtson (West Palm Beach, Fla./John I. Leonard HS), Courtland Bernard (Sarasota, Fla./Sarasota HS), Austin Boetje (Lawrenceville, Ga./Mill Creek HS/Georgia State), Jose Cartagena (Guatemala City, Guatemala/Estero HS), Gilbert Chemaoi (Eldoret, Kenya/Kirobon HS/Eastern Kentucky), Jean Deceus (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee HS), Alex Delle Monache (Welland, Ontario/E.L. Crossley), Aaron Rojas (Estero, Fla./Estero HS) and Chris Rudloff (Ormond Beach, Fla./Mainland HS).
After they return from The Twin Cities, the Eagles will travel to Florida’s Capital City for the Seminole Invitational Oct. 28.
For complete coverage of FGCU cross country at the Roy Griak Invitational, follow on Twitter @FGCU_XC and visit www.FGCUAthletics.com where full recaps and results will be available at the end of the meet.