The USC women’s cross-country team knows that it’s in for a challenge at this weekend’s Pac-10 Cross Country Championships, but according to USC coach Tom Walsh, if there’s any team ready for a challenge, it’s his.
“Our girls have trained the correct way,” Walsh said. “We’ve done the workouts right. We’re ready.”
The Women of Troy will need to be ready when they travel to Seattle, Wash., to take on some of the best teams in the country. Walsh knows the powerhouses like Oregon, Stanford and Washington that await his squad will be tough to beat, but he still has confidence that USC will impress anyone who counts it out.
“Yes, we’re battling for that middle of the pack,” Walsh said. “But this team has a reputation for coming on strong at the end of races. If everyone runs their best race, we’ll be fine.”
USC will use its seven best runners to try and make a significant dent in the Pac-10 placing. Senior Zsofia Erdelyi, who won the Cal State Northridge meet individual title earlier this month, will likely battle with some of the best runners on the West Coast for another first-place title in Seattle.
“Zsofia runs best when she’s at the front,” Walsh said. “I like her staying with the lead pack and then surging at the end. She should be right up there with the best.”
The rest of USC’s squad is made up of both youth and experience. Joining Erdelyi are seniors Christine Cortez, Dina Kitayama and Zara Lukens. Juniors Leah Gaeta and Jessica Lundin and sophomore Kelly Owen round out USC’s top seven. Walsh indicated that his seniors have to step up for the Women of Troy to exceed expectations.
“I’m looking for Christine Cortez and the other seniors to have another breakthrough,” Walsh said. “They’ve been doing it all year.”
Walsh also believes that the race, which will be run at what he called a “flat and fast” Jefferson Golf Course in Seattle, could teeter on who gets out to a strong start.
“We absolutely have to be aggressive,” Walsh said. “Everyone gets out so fast at Pac-10s. If you don’t get out fast, you’re in trouble.”
Before the gun even goes off, however, Walsh said USC already has a couple advantages.
“There’s rain in the forecast and we have several runners who hail from bad-weather areas,” Walsh said. “I feel like that will help.”
The other advantage, however, is much more important.
“We finally have momentum,” Walsh said. “It’s something we haven’t had the past few years. We’ve had a great year and I’m looking forward to seeing how we stack up against the best.”