The USC women’s cross country team is searching for a spark, which it will try to find it this weekend at the Vanguard Invitational in Costa Mesa.
Two weeks after the Women of Troy did not live up to expectations at the competitive Stanford Invitational, USC is hoping that the recently scheduled Vanguard meet will give the team momentum with the Pac-10 championships only three weeks away.
“I’m waiting for this team to break out,” said coach Tom Walsh. “We’ve been training very well and it just hasn’t shown in races. But we’ve been doing some really good things the past few weeks and hopefully they will show on Saturday.”
Originally, Walsh did not plan on having his team race in between Stanford and the Cal State Northridge Meet on Oct. 16. However, after a slew of injuries and illnesses to begin the season, Walsh felt the team needed an extra tune-up before the homestretch.
“I added this meet because we have had people that are behind schedule as far as the season is concerned,” Walsh said. “I also did it because we have so many young people on the team. They need more experience at the college level.”
One of the runners affected by injury at the beginning of the season was junior Zsofia Erdelyi, who two weeks ago rebounded to finish 13th overall at Stanford. Erdelyi’s coach expects even more from her this Saturday.
“I’d like to see Zsofia win the race,” Walsh said. “She was behind schedule because of her foot injury and a late track season. But I’m happy with her progress. An extra race will be very good for her.”
Captain Bridget Helgerson did not have quite the race Erdelyi had at Stanford, but improved after a rocky start to her season. Walsh said he expects Helgerson to keep getting better as the season progresses.
“Bridget is looking really good,” Walsh said. “Before Stanford she really started to turn it around. Her training has really picked up, and I’m looking forward to a good race from her.”
As with the week before Stanford, the Women of Troy all saw their training pick up with the bye week. Without a Saturday race to curb hard workouts, Walsh increased the intensity.
“We trained even harder than we did before Stanford,” Walsh said. “They’ve responded well to the intensity. The Stanford meet was a wake-up call for us. We didn’t perform the way we could have or should have, but the will to be successful is definitely there.”
While arguably the team’s most competitive meet is out of the way, Walsh insists that the most important ones are yet to come.
“[Vanguard] is not quite Pac-10 level,” Walsh admitted. “But we need to somehow get a win at this meet. We need something to get going for the rest of the season. I’m hoping we win this meet. Just being competitive won’t satisfy me, or the girls.”
The 5K race will begin on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Fairview Park.