COLLEGE CROSS COUNTRY: Competition difficult at best for UND
UND is now in its third season in the Big Sky Conference. For UND's cross country programs, that means the competition is difficult -- at best. The league has some of the strongest cross country programs in the country. UND will host the annual B...
UND is now in its third season in the Big Sky Conference. For UND’s cross country programs, that means the competition is difficult - at best.
The league has some of the strongest cross country programs in the country. UND will host the annual Big Sky Conference meet today at Ray Richards Golf Course. The men’s 8K race is set for 12:30 p.m., while the women’s 5K race will follow at 1:45 p.m.
“It’s really exciting to be in the Big Sky,” said UND’s Nate Peterson, a senior who is expected to lead the North Dakota men’s team. “It’s nice to have higher goals. The bar is set higher in the Big Sky, with Northern Arizona being a top-10 ranked team and Southern Utah a top-25 team.
“It’s really good competition and good competition helps in cross country.”
UND won’t challenge for the team title in either the men’s or women’s division. The opportunity to run against some of the best runners in the country, however, makes the meet special for UND runners.
If UND does have an advantage, it’s the elevation.
“It’s not at altitude,” said Peterson. “Two years ago, our first in the Big Sky, we ran at 7,200 feet (at Northern Arizona). Last year, we ran at 5,500 feet in Bozeman. This year, we’re at sea level and we have home cooking.”
Peterson led UND at last year’s Big Sky meet, finishing 28th. He’s looking for a top-15 or top-20 finish today.
UND finished eighth last season.
“We’d like to either hold or do better than our conference place last year,” he said.
The UND women finished 10th in last season’s meet. North Dakota will be led by Erin Wysocki, a former Grand Forks Red River standout.
Wysocki became the program’s first All-Big Sky Conference runner last season when she finished fifth at the league meet. The senior again is expected to lead UND today.
“For myself, my goal is to just hang on and go hard,” Wysocki said. “And then team-wise, we definitely want to stick together and go out hard. I know that we can do it, but we have to do it to the extent that we can do it.”
Since UND joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012, this is the second league event to be held in Grand Forks. The Big Sky women’s postseason tournament was held at The Betty in March.
“To bring this quality conference here is pretty neat,” said UND coach Dick Clay. “We’re going to see some of the top teams in the country; on the men’s side, there will be two top-25 ranked (NAU, SUU) teams right here.
“We’ve been training for it; we’ve done probably a little more speed this year than we have in the past. A lot of people are going to have to run PRs. If we want to be in it, that means people running significant PRs. But this is the time to do it.”
Hosting an event of this caliber is significant for the Grand Forks running community as well.
“For people in the community, the running community, I think it’ll be really fun for them,” Clay said. “A lot of people are looking forward to coming to watch because of just the overall quality of the conference and how good it is.”
Northern Arizona won the 2013 Big Sky men’s meet while Weber State captured the women’s division.