Back in August, when the weather was still warm and his runners rarin' to go, veteran HU cross country coach Paul Schamedeke said, "The only race that really matters is the one on the last Saturday in October. That's the one we are gunning for."
That race is finally here -- the annual MIAC meet at Como Golf Course. The women take off at 2:15 with the men set to start at 3:15. Schmaedeke thinks his troops are as ready as they ever will be.
"We need everybody to be on top of their game to score well," he said earlier this week. "If we do that, we have a chance to have a very good day Saturday."
The men are the three-time defending champs. The road to a four-peat would appear to go through a slew of talented teams with St. Olaf considered the favorite. St. John's, St. Thomas, Bethel and Carleton also made the Top 10 USTFCCA Central Region ratings. But Schmaedeke thinks his team has a chance to crack the top three spots.
The Pipers have occupied one of the top three spots since 2005. To get there again, they may need a big effort from Brendan Ruter (pictured) and Nate Dobbins. Ruter was 20th in last year's meet ... and the last player whose points counted. (Dobbins finished 29th.) With last year's Nos. 2-3-4 finishers graduated and Colin Rogers (who was 16th) out for the season,
"Both of them have done a great job this year," Schmaedeke said. "Brendan has a good chance to finish in the Top 10. Nate is very capable, too." Ruter and Dobbins may be joined near the top by fellow senior Chris Reisdorfer. ("He's had a solid year," Schmaedeke said.) So has sophomore Ryan Peterson and freshman Nathan Rock.
"At this point of the season, it's all about the back half of the race -- who has it down the stretch," Schmaedeke said.
On the women's side, the Pipers are looking to move northward from last year's 8th place finish. The young team has just two seniors on it. One name that has stood out in the fall is Maria Theisen. A winner of the 4k run at St. Kate's a few weeks ago, the junior has, in Schmaedeke's words, "the ability to take the next step. She can be an All-Conference runner. She has made significant improvement over last year."
Theisen finished 30th in last year's race. Emily Smith, who was 47th last year as a freshman, may be ready to move up several notches. Smith, however, has been bothered by health issues. Junior Cassie Ernst has also made big strides and is expected to improve on last year's 70th place finish.
As is the case on the men's side, the competition at the top figures to be intense on the women's side, too, with St. Olaf, St. Ben's, Carleton, St. Thomas and Gustavus dueling for first place.
For complete results of both races, as well as previews and other information on Webcast America video that will be available for viewing the event at a later time, click here.