Aug 29, 2013
DAVIS, Calif. - The UC Davis men's and women's cross country teams, with goals to return to the top of the Big West Conference, will take the first steps in that direction on Friday evening when they open the 2013 season by hosting the Aggie Open.
The meet, held at Putah Creek Reserve near the UC Davis campus, will also feature rival Sacramento State as well as expected open and unattached collegiate competitors. The men's 6,000-meter race begins at 6:30 p.m. while the women's 4K starts at 7 p.m. Competitors will race on a looped course on packed dirt.
"Our opening meet provides the chance to get an indication of our effectiveness working together in a small race where the emphasis will fall on executing positive, collaborative team tactics as much as it will racing against the Hornets," said head coach Drew Wartenburg.
The meet will kick off a busy fall for the Aggies who will travel in the region and nationally in preparation for the Big West Championships at San Luis Obispo, the NCAA West Regional in nearby Sacramento and the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
The UC Davis women, titlists in 2011, finished second at the 2012 conference championship meet while the men finished fourth. Wartenburg said the Aggies have worked hard during the offseason to put themselves in a position to be contenders.
"We're excited to begin witnessing the dividends of summer mileage once the competitive season opens," he said. "Both the men's and women's teams are led by very capable captains in Grayson Hough and Alycia Cridebring and our first first week and a half on campus has already set a great tone for the weeks to come."
The Aggie men return all eight runners that competed at last fall's Big West Championships, including junior Trevor Halsted from Davis High School who was sixth at the meet and later earned all-region honors with a 20th place finish at that meet. Sophomores Brandon Pugh and Cody Nguyen were 13th and 22nd, respectively, at the Big West meet while senior Nathan Strum, Jordan Rushing, Amar Dholakia, Hough and Ratto are also back.
"While still on the young side, the men should be paced by Trevor Halsted who should find a solid and consistent group on his heels this fall," said Wartenburg. "Despite the fact that we did not show great strength on the track last spring, our men have matured and developed a great deal in the past year and have the ability to make very positive strides forward if we stay healthy and continue to gather momentum through November."
Twelve of the 17 roster spots on the men's team are occupied by underclassmen. Halsted was the top Aggie finisher in each race he competed last year including picking up three top-10 finishes and a strong 13th-place showing at the prestigious Stanford Invitational.
Cridebring, fellow senior Sarah Sumpter and junior Katie Fry form a powerful trio for the Aggie women. Sumpter was the 2009 Big West Athlete of the Year and conference champion and has finished second each of the past two seasons. Cridebring and Fry joined Sumpter with all-conference honors last year after finishing third and fifth, respectively. Sumpter and Cridebring went on to claim all-region honors as well, helping UC Davis finish sixth.
"Our women return good core components from last fall and will also add some new faces - both newcomers and veterans alike - to the travel squad this season. After a year that saw us fall short of our major outcome goals, the women definitely have something to prove and have adopted the attitude and necessary motivation to achieve their objectives," said Wartenburg. "Alycia, Sarah and Katie should provide a strong front behind which we expect a group of somewhat interchangeable parts, much like on the men's side, to allow for a wealth of possibilities in race contexts."
The Aggie women welcome back seven of their nine competitors from the Big West Championships and add seven true and redshirt freshmen.
Both teams will face challenging schedules to prepare them for the postseason. The men and the women will follow the Aggie Open with the Hornet Invitational (Sept. 14), Stanford Invitational (Sept. 28) and NCAA West Regional Preview (Oct. 4). UC Davis will split for three meets on Oct. 17 with the men participating in the NCAA Pre-National meet at the site of November's national championship in Indiana, while the women will see an elite collegiate field at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Other team members will travel to the Santa Clara Invitational.
Besides the Aggie Open, UC Davis will host the Doc Adams Open as well, scheduled this year for Nov. 9, also at Putah Creek Reserve.
"The cross country season has an 'extra' week this year, with the postseason dates falling a bit later than the norm," Wartenburg said. "We look forward to the added time to take a measured and ambitious approach to our training and competitive routines in order to squeeze as much as we can from our sea