Oct. 3, 2013
BEAUMONT – Entering the season as one of the favorites in the Southland Conference, the Lamar cross country teams will look to make a name for themselves on a national level this weekend as the squads hit the road to take part in the 58th annual Notre Dame Invitational.
“This is the biggest meet of the year for us so far, and this is what we’ve been building toward,” cross country coach Darren Gauson said. “There are a lot of big teams in it, and there are at-large points available, which are very valuable when you’re trying to make it to the national meet later in the year. We’re going to be running everyone because this is definitely the kind of event that will help prepare us for the conference championships as well as the regional.”
The event marks the third of the season for Lamar after participating in the Cowboy Relays in August and the Justin F. Cooper Memorial Rice Invitational last month, where both the men and women placed third. This weekend, however, marks one of the most challenging tests of the season as both teams are set to compete in races that feature eight teams ranked in the top 30 by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Lamar men, currently ranked sixth in the South Central region, will look to improve that mark with the help of 2012 All-American Matt Johnsen, who is coming off a seventh place finish at Rice, and he’ll be looking to become the first Cardinal to take home the Notre Dame individual title since Samuel Kosgei in 2008.
Sam Stabler, who placed 10th at last month’s event, will also be key as well as fellow junior Ryan Creech.
However, Gauson also has high expectations of a group of newcomers that includes Ryan Saunders
, who placed 10th
at last year’s European Championships, and Ash Harrell
, who missed all of last season due to injury.
Graduate students Matt Jackson and Michael Kershaw as well as freshmen Sean Chalmers and Sean Guiney will also compete. All four participated in the Rice Invitational.
Leigh Lattimore will look to rack up a third consecutive victory on the women’s side after taking home individual crowns at both McNeese and Rice. The graduate student out of England has been impressive for a Lady Cardinal team that currently ranks ninth in the South Central region.
Four other LU runners joined Lattimore in the top 25 at Rice, including Louise Webb (19th), Kayla de Bondt (20th), Rachel Robinson (21st) and Claire Arnold (23rd).
“It’s going to be interesting to watch on the women’s side,” explained Gauson. “Almost the whole team is new to running in a big meet like this. I expect to see Leigh to be up there towards the front of the race, but I think we’ll see a lot of the other runners have breakthrough performances.”
Texans Belinda Aguilar, Megan Flanagan and Kaitlynn Warren will round out the team in the Blue race, and Hannah Alderson, who has represented her native Great Britain internationally, will make her LU debut in the open race earlier in the day.
The five-kilometer women’s race will begin at 3:15 p.m. on Friday, and the five-mile men’s event is set to start at 4 p.m. Both races will be held at Burke Golf Course in Notre Dame, Ind.