The college cross-country season begins shortly after track season ends in the Spring. The entire Summer is spent by the runners racking up major mileage in order to build an endurance base necessary to compete with the best runners and teams in the country. Well, all those countless miles are about to pay off for the entire #9 ranked women's team and Sam Masters of the mens' team, as they will represent the Blue and White at the NCAA Cross-Country Championships in Louisville this Saturday.
The starting box draws (each team has its own 'box' on the starting line) were also announced and the PSU women start in Box 29 out of 41. This means that while they won't be starting in the center of the course, they won't be starting on the outside edge, either. Why does this matter? Usually, after the first 400-600 meters in these types of big meets, the course path narrows a little, making positioning all the more important. The last thing any runner wants to do is get stuck in the middle of the pack, unable to make a move until the front pack has already forged ahead, making catching up with them a daunting task. Starting on the outside edges means the runner needs to make a more concerted effort to get towards the center and avoid getting trapped.
The distances will differ between the men and women. The men will run a 10K (6.2 miles) while the women tend to run around 8K (4.9 miles). The men's winner will run a sub-5 minute mile pace in all likelihood while the women's winner will run in the lower 5-minute mile pace. Yes, I know, HOLY SHIT THAT'S FAST. Again, this is where that Summer mileage comes into play (along with numerous track workouts to add speed on top of one's endurance base).
Best of luck to Sam and the PSU women as they attempt to realize their dreams of NCAA glory.