The USC women’s cross-country team will begin its second meet of the 2011 season Saturday, as it is scheduled to partake in the 67th annual San Diego State Aztec Invitational, held in Balboa Park.
The course, which runs near the San Diego Zoo, should challenge the Women of Troy.
“This meet will be a great chance for the team to race on a tougher, hillier or rugged course,” USC coach Tom Walsh said. “The times will be slower, but they’ll be slower for all teams. I’m trying to teach them not to be so focused on times, but rather on performance.”
With only seven entrants in this weekend’s race, USC hopes to better last week’s performance at the UC Irvine Invitational, where it finished seventh.
Redshirt junior Shelby Buckley, who opened her first season for USC as its top finisher at the invitational, will be counted upon to lead the Women of Troy to another respectable finish. The other six runners are all the freshmen recruits, most of who raced for the first time last weekend.
The Aztec Invitational, however, will also serve as the first official race for freshman Erica Capellino, who is expected to become one of USC’s top runners.
“I’m excited to see how Erica performs,” Walsh said. “She’s been doing so well in training, and hopefully that will carry over. She’s a good hill runner, which is why we wanted her to start out in San Diego instead of last week. Kira Soderstrom will hopefully do really well too; she’s really stepped it up in training.”
The meet might prove difficult for the Women of Troy, as the terrain is notoriously rugged when compared to other 5-kilometer courses. Additionally, Walsh noted concerns about the runners going out too quickly in the early goings, which could eventually count for a loss of speed in the middle of the race. This has been a persistent issue for the Trojans in past meets, Walsh added.
Though last week’s race proved to be a solid start to the season, Walsh hopes this weekend’s invitational will allow the runners to further prove themselves. The UC Irvine Invitational was the first meet as Trojans for eight of USC’s 10 runners, and the first official collegiate race for the team’s five freshmen.
“The first race is always a starting point,” Walsh said. “Runners make mistakes and are more tentative. There’s always a big improvement between the first race and the second. We just need to focus on mental toughness, and not slowing down in the middle.”
The race, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in San Diego, will also have a community division in which local runners can participate.