USC gets a chance to prove itself
For most of the USC womenâs cross country team, Saturdayâs NCAA West Regional meet in Springfield, Ore., will be the last race of the 2009 season.
It also serves as a chance to show that the Women of Troyâs ninth-place finish at the Pac-10 Championship was not indicative of the teamâs potential.
âThis is a great chance for us to build off of Pac-10s,â USC coach Tom Walsh said. âItâs one last chance to get a real important race in.â
Although only one of USCâs runners, junior Zsofia Erdelyi, appears on track to qualify for the NCAA Championships, Walsh insists that the West Regionals are just as important for the other members of the team, especially underclassmen.
âThis is great experience for the rest of the girls,â Walsh said. âThey will learn so much and their improvement curve will be much better after they run this race. Looking ahead to the future, we have a lot of freshmen that are starting out at a high point and are going to be productive in our program for the next four years.â
The race also holds a bit of extra importance for four of USCâs eight competing runners. Senior captain Bridget Helgerson is a native of Portland, Ore., and freshman Kathleen Moloney, senior Katherine Ellis, and junior Zara Lukens all hail from Washington.
âThis is basically a homecoming for half of our team,â Walsh said. âI think itâll be a boost to these four girls to be back in familiar territory.â
On the course, however, Saturdayâs race holds the greatest significance for Erdelyi, who is looking to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year. The junior standout from Hungary is coming off a slightly subpar race at the Pac-10 Championships.
But Walsh says he is not worried about Erdelyiâs chances to compete at NCAAs.
âEvery year sheâs finished higher at regionals than she has at Pac-10s,â Walsh said. âWeâre hoping that is something she continues. I have faith that she will.â
Last season, Erdelyi finished 17th overall at Pac-10 Championships, then rebounded to finish eighth overall at West Regionals two weeks later. Walsh estimated that Erdelyi would have to finish somewhere in the top 20 overall at this yearâs meet in order to qualify for nationals.
Rounding out USCâs competitors on Saturday are juniors Christine Cortez and Dina Kitayama, along with freshman Christy Ambrosini, who will be an alternate.
The womenâs 6K race will begin on Saturday at 10:45 a.m. at Springfield Golf Course.