TERRE HAUTE —
For the first time in nine years, Indiana State will be on the road for the annual Pre-National Invitational as the 2012 edition gets conducted Saturday at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky., the site of the 2012 NCAA Division I men’s and women’s national championships.
The University of Louisville is the host school for this year’s championships, which will return to Terre Haute in 2013.
The first of four races (men’s seeded) will feature the ISU men at 9:30 a.m. The Sycamore women will run in the women’s unseeded race at 10:30 a.m.
“This is our chance to run on the championship course,” Indiana State men’s coach John McNichols said. “This will be good for our athletes if we have any aspirations of making it to the national championships this year.”
Competing in the seeded race for the Indiana State men will be John Mascari, Al Escalera, Dustin Betz, Taylor Head, Tristan Selby, Corey Hahn and Gabe Ocasio.
Third-ranked Brigham Young leads the 39 teams in the men’s seeded race. Other ranked teams that are scheduled to compete include seventh-ranked Colorado, No. 9 Tulsa, No. 12 Villanova, No. 14 Florida State, No. 15 Oregon, No. 20 Georgetown and No. 23 College of William and Mary. McNichols said all of the teams in the race are ranked regionally except for Greensboro, which happens to have one of the best individuals in the country.
“The overall strength of this meet is that there are not any weak links,” McNichols said. “It is going to be very, very competitive.”
The 8,000-meter course at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park has a difficult opening, which could cause problems for the field.
“There are some uniquenesses to this course that we will have to figure out how to negotiate,” McNichols said. “Our pre-meet run on Friday will be really important for our team to visualize the trouble spots and how they are going to handle them.”
Unlike ISU’s LaVern Gibson Championship Course, the course at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park has a difficult opening that features a narrow stretch over a bridge 400 meters in and a severe 180-degree turn 800 meters into the race.
“The question will be do you get to the top, run all out to try, clear these areas and suffer a little bit with your pace after that or do you sit back in the middle, negotiate these areas and then try to pass as many people as you can after that,” McNichols said. “Trouble with sitting back is that there will be 160 good athletes that you will have to pass to get back up toward the top.”
While the men’s race will be an 8,000-meter run, the women will go 6,000 meters for the first time this season.
“I am not a huge fan of running that distance at this time but that is the way the race is structured,” ISU women’s coach John Gartland said.
Gartland expects the race to be highly competitive, even though it is the unseeded race with 25 teams vying in the team competition and a total of 45 boxes being filled at the start.
“Most of the teams that we are going up against are not regionally ranked but that does not mean that there are not any good schools in the race,” Gartland said. “The large numbers in this race are due to Louisville placing the eight through 12 runners from the seeded teams into the race unlike what we did for a decade which was to open a third [open] race. I think this is a mistake and it is going to make it very congested. We will just have to see how it comes out after the gun goes off.”
Competing for the Indiana State women will be Jessica Zangmeister, Nicole Lucas, Hanna Mercer, Kalli Dalton, Emily Cotterman, Amy Hicks, Lindy Jones, Shelby Sands and Serena Simeoli.
ISU has hosted the NCAA championships in nine of the last 10 years, including eight straight from 2004 through 2011 at the Gibson course.