UConn women's cross country to compete in the Ted Owens Invitational
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 21:09
This weekend, the UConn women’s cross-country team will travel to New Britain to compete in the annual Central Connecticut State Ted Owens Invitational race. While the team has competed at this event in the past, this year the plan is slightly different.
Unlike the team’s first meet of the season, the Dartmouth Invitational, Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough will not be racing her normal top five runners. Grove-McDonough doesn’t know exactly which runners will be on the line come Saturday, although she did admit to the existence of several “game-time decisions” yet to be made.
“I still don’t even know who I’m going to run,” Grove-McDonough said. “I know I’m going to have five runners out there, but I don’t know who. My bottom line is that I just want to make sure that the people who are out there are fit and healthy enough to actually compete and get something out of the race.”
Grove-McDonough did make it clear that the runners who will be representing UConn at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 29 will not be competing this weekend for three purposes, the first being to give runners who don’t normally compete in the regular season meets a chance to gain experience. The second purpose is to give Grove-McDonough a chance to see what type of depth she’ll have to work with once championship season rolls around. The third purpose is to give those runners who are banged up due to injury or illness another week to recover, thus ensuring that the Huskies travel to the Griak Invitational at full strength.
Last year at the Ted Owens Invitational, UConn finished in third place out of 10 teams. This year the team is expecting a similar or improved finish. Despite the fact that Grove-McDonough isn’t putting perhaps her best team on the starting line, she still expects the team to perform and treat the event like any other important race.
“Any time you put on the UConn jersey, you’ve got to represent, whether its the Griak Invitational or Central. So we still take it seriously,” Grove-McDonough said. “We’re excited about Central because all the girls on the team are planning to come out and watch their teammates who are racing. They’ve all made their own arrangements to get out there, so that’s cool. We’re excited about the weekend in general.”
Despite still having to take care of business this weekend, it is clear that the UConn women’s cross country squad has its collective sights set on the NCAA Championshipss. The road to reaching that goal begins in earnest after this weekend. After the Ted Owens Invitational, UConn has another week off and then it’s off to the Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., followed by the New England Championships, the Wisconsin Invitational, and the Big East Championship.
Given the team’s goal of qualifying for the NCAA Championship, Grove-McDonough is especially conscious of trying to prevent her team from making its break to the front of the national pack too early, as it did last season.
“I’m trying to focus on getting our runners to peak at the right time, both physically and mentally. That’s part of the art of coaching, but I think peaking is as much of an art form as anything,” Coach Grove-McDonough said. “And now, we’re at a point where we can afford to sort of look past those early season meets and focus more on November.”
The value of this weekend for the UConn women’s cross-country team is that it will reveal who Grove-McDonough can rely on in the event that injury strikes one of her top runners right before the Big East Championship, or NCAA Regionals. Knowing that valuable information will be a confidence booster heading into the thick of the regular season.
The bottom line is that, while the Ted Owens Invitational is not a “must-win” for the UConn women’s cross country team, it is still an important barometer in determining the team’s depth. And as the leaves start to fall and the season wears on, depth can mean the difference between the teams that make the NCAA Championship, and those that don’t.