Brooks Pre-Nationals Notes
Oct. 12, 2005
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn men's cross country team will get to preview the course of the 2005 NCAA Championships on Saturday, Oct. 15 in Terre Haute, Ind., as they compete in the Brooks Pre-Nationals hosted by Indiana State. The Tigers will compete in the men's 8K white race, which is slated for 11:40 a.m. and will be held at the LaVern Gibson Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center. The course will host the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21. The men's field has 73 teams and is split into two races (white and blue). The blue race will commence at 11 a.m., followed by the white race at 11:40 a.m. Auburn's women's team will not compete at the meet.
This race will be an excellent measuring stick for Auburn. The Tigers have finished no worse than fourth in their first three races, but they are yet to face as competitive of a field as the one that awaits them in Indiana. Weather could be a major factor for Auburn, as they are yet to run in poor conditions. The forecast in Terre Haute calls for sunny and a high of 74, but a low of 44. The temperature could test the Tigers, who have yet to race in temperatures below the mid 60's.
Head coach Peter Watson will take an experienced lineup to the Pre-Nationals. The lineup consists of seniors Andrew Heath, Joey Giattino, and Matt Tillman, juniors Patrick Philbin and Patrick Mouser and sophomores Chris Walsh and Jordan Davis. This is the same top seven Auburn has used in every race this year. So far, the lineup has been a success, producing three top-four finishes.
Of the 73 men's teams in the field, 34 will be in the white race with Auburn. Fourteen of the teams in the white race are ranked or receiving votes in the latest USCCCA poll released Oct. 4. The highest ranked team in No. 3 Colorado. The other ranked teams are No. 7 Notre Dame, No. 8 Iona, No. 13 Florida, No. 14 Iowa, No. 15 William & Mary, No. 16 Portland, No. 19 Michigan, No. 24 Washington, No. 26 Arizona State, No. 27 Air Force and No. 30 Colorado State. La Salle and Michigan State are receiving votes. The other teams in the field are Clemson, Columbia, Eastern Illinois, Harvard, Illinois, Indiana State, Kent State, Liberty, Long Beach State, Marquette, Missouri State, Norfolk State, Princeton, St. Francis, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Utah State, Washington State, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Yale. This is the second largest field the men have competed in this season, behind the 44-team Paul Short Invitational.
Last Time Out
Auburn hosted the 13th annual Auburn Invitational at Indian Pines Golf Course on Saturday, Oct. 8.The men finished first, claiming their first team title since winning the 2004 season-opening Georgia State Invitational. The women finished 14th.
The men claimed the title with 99 points and finished ahead of second-place New Mexico (118). The finish for the men was their eighth straight finish in the top four, dating back to the start of last season. The Tigers held off 24 teams in what was arguably the most competitive field in the history of the meet. Individually, sophomore Chris Walsh led the Tigers for the first time this season, as he placed fifth in a time of 24:03.71. The finish was Walsh's second top five of the season after placing fourth at the season-opening Florida State Inv. Senior Andrew Heath followed right behind Walsh, finishing sixth in 24:04.54. Heath picked up his 12th top-10 finish of his career and third on the season. Heath's time set a personal record for the second week in a row. South Alabama's Vincent Rono won the won the meet in 23:33.46.
The women placed 14th in the 23-team field with 142 points. Senior Angela Homan led the Tigers, with a fourth-place finish. Homan finished in a time of 16:56.60. Senior Dawn Morgan was the second Tiger across the line, placing 71st in a time of 18:46.00. Samford won the team title with 86 points, while Tennessee-Chattanooga's Shannon Wommack won the individual crown in a time of 16:20.57.
Auburn will face a few familiar teams at Pre-Nationals. For the second time this year, the Tigers will face La Salle, Princeton and Columbia. The Tigers faced all three squads at the Paul Short Invitational, where they placed fourth. La Salle and Princeton finished second and third, respectively, while Columbia finished fifth. The Tigers finished with 219 points, while third-place Princeton had 170 points.
Andrew Heath and Chris Walsh have been the top finishers for the men in all three races this season. Last year, the duo finished one and two in three of five meets. This season, Heath has placed second, 10th and sixth, while Walsh has finished fourth, 19th and fifth.
Making His Mark
Andrew Heath has begun his senior campaign on a torrid pace. In three meets, Heath has garnered three top-10 finishes and set a new personal record twice. He opened the season at the Florida State Inv., where he placed second. The Marietta, Ga., native followed up his second-place finish by setting a new personal record in the 8K at the Paul Short Inv. Heath finished in a time of 24:10.1, while placing 10th. Last week at the Auburn Inv., Heath once again set a new personal record, as he placed sixth in a time of 24:04.54.
The last poll to be released by the United State Cross Country Coaches of America (USCCCA) was on Oct. 4. In the poll, the men's team remained fifth in the South Region. The women's team is not currently ranked.
Peter Watson begins his first season as the coach of the cross country program. Watson takes over for former coach Chris Fox, who was hired as the head track and field coach at Syracuse after three seasons at Auburn. Watson is a 2001 graduate of West Virginia, where he was a four-year letterman on both the track and cross country teams. A native of London, Ontario, Canada, Watson participated in the 2000 and 2001 Canadian National Track and Field Championships. Prior to coming to Auburn, Watson ran professionally, while training in Boulder, Colorado, and Kenya, Africa.
SEC Championships on the Move
Due to the on-going relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, the SEC decided that it would be in the best interest of everyone if the SEC Cross Country Championships were moved from Baton Rouge, La., to another location. The championships will still be held on Oct. 29, but will take place at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C. The event will be hosted by South Carolina.
Homan's a Hit
Although Angela Homan isn't winning every race like last season, she is still turning in top-10 finishes every time out. In the three meets this fall, Homan has placed first, seventh and fourth. Homan opened the year with a win at the Florida State Inv. Homan's win was the ninth of her career and at the time was her fifth regular season win in a row. In all, Homan has won six of her last nine events and eight of her last 13. In 2004, Homan won every race leading up to the NCAA Championships, where she placed ninth. Homan entered the 2005 season as the back-to-back SEC Champion and two-time All-American. Homan has also been selected as the SEC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Year for two consecutive seasons. This season, Homan is bidding to become the first three-time SEC Champion.
The women's team will return to action Oct. 22, joining the men's team at the Coach "O" Invitational at Trojan Oaks Golf Club in Troy, Ala. It is the Tigers final regular season meet before the SEC Championships on Oct. 29 in Columbia, S.C.