JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Director of XC Ron Grigg said he’s not worried about Friday’s FLrunners.com 14 Invitational in Titusville, Fla., partly because he believes the men’s team is the best that JU has had in 10 years.
“I don’t know where we’re going to place in the conference, but I know that the level of our [men's] team is as good as it’s been in a decade.” Grigg said.
Both the men’s and women’s XC teams are coming off 3-0 sweeps at the JU Short Course Duals from August 30 that opened their respective seasons. That meet was only five days into the school year and the teams had been training for four of them. Grigg said the intentionally low-key competition was an evaluation of their summer training.
“For the women the win was expected; for the men, not so much. They hadn’t won that race in a number of years so we were excited about the improvement on the men’s side.”
Since that meet, the men and women have been training to improve and ready them for Friday. JU’s training has been going fabulously, Grigg exclaimed, adding that he’s very excited to see how “the middle of the pack kids” will perform. Five women and six men will race. He’s pretty confident in how the number one runners will do on both sides, being veterans, but after them are sophomores and freshmen.
The men’s roster is composed of two sophomores and six freshmen, while the women have one sophomore and two first-years.
“I’d really like to see how they’re going to respond in their first real racing opportunity,” Grigg said.
Nick Dale and Andrew Merrill were JU’s two top runners for most of last season as freshmen, Grigg said, and even though they’re only sophomores now, they’re team leaders and have done well.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie. The guys hang out together and just make it for a much better training group when you have that many guys who can run together and push each other, so we’ve just seen a lot of quality training.”
To pair with good training is the familiarity that a few of the JU XC runners have with the Chain of Lakes Park in Titusville. That -- and the course isn’t too challenging, Grigg explained.
“Svenja (Meyer), our top woman, she’s run this race on two or three other occasions so we’ll be able to tell, if the weather is similar, where she stands in relationship to how’s she’s been running in the past. Where her current training is, she should go out and have an opportunity to be in the top two or three in the event and maybe even challenge for the win,” Grigg said.
Freshman Katy Solis will probably be JU’s number two runner, he said. Solis ran this race each of her last two years of high school, the exact same course, so the coaches will be able to compare her performances too.
Most of the other JU runners will race for the first time on the course, but he’s not at all worried.
“It’s flat and fast. We train on campus … we have challenging terrain here on campus that will be more difficult than anything we face racing over the year and that’s the way that we want it. So the course itself shouldn’t be a challenge. It’s known to be a fast course and really there are no obstacles.”
The women race at 5:56 p.m. and the men begin at 6:20 p.m.
JU has competed in the meet for four of the last five years.
“We’re very familiar with the course and it’ll provide adequate competition for both the men and the women.”
The Florida men’s team will compete, along with Stetson, Grigg said. On the women’s side, UCF will be the biggest competition. Other teams that JU has raced before, including Bethune-Cookman, will run, alongside four or five other division I schools and a number of division 2 and NAIA schools.
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