After a three-week break, women’s cross country will compete on Saturday at the UC Riverside Highlander Invitational. With a goal of gradual and consistent improvement, head coach Patrick Henner says the team will continue to refine racing tactics at the meet.
“One of the biggest or most important skills we’ve been working on is learning how to build intensity throughout the race,” Henner said. “So to start mentally and physically relaxed, and then as you move through the 5K race this Saturday, try to build intensity every 1,000 [meters] so that you’re running your hardest in the last 1,000.”
Henner said the strategy builds on the same race plan from the UNLV Invitational, where the Trojans placed fourth overall. He noted the team’s top three finishers — junior Amber Gore, junior Lauren Maurer and freshman Jennifer Daly — executed this plan well at UNLV. On Saturday, Henner expects the trio to build on this success, while he also looks for improvement from the back half of the team.
“My philosophy is that to have a really good cross country team, everybody has to go out and execute the race plan and give a really good effort,” Henner said. “And that’s something that’s always 100 percent under your control. So, if you can do that, and you have all your top five or seven do that, then the scoreboard’s going to take care of itself.”
After the Highlander Invitational, the Trojans will compete at the Cal State Fullerton Titan Invitational before moving on to their Pac-12 conference meet and NCAA West Regionals. Instead of viewing these meets as an end, Henner said he wants the team to focus on the overall process of the season.
“Distance running is a long-term investment,” Henner said. “It’s not a short-term game. So we just want to look to get better physically and mentally, every single training block, every single race, and really not look at the end of the season as the end of anything. It’s just like, ‘Hey, that’s a building block, now we can move into indoors and keep working on those same skills.’”