Courtesy: Spencer Farrin (Moscow, Idaho)
The young Idaho men will try to take another step forward this week.
Vandal XC climbs rankings
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 09/10/2012
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MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho men’s and women’s cross country jumped one notch each in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association West Region rankings this week, on the eve of the team’s first big challenge.

The Vandal women jumped to No. 13 in the region, while Idaho’s men hopped up one spot to No. 14.

Idaho director of track and field/cross country Wayne Phipps said it’s a pleasant surprise to get that bump, since the team’s first competition of the year two weeks ago featured a team entirely of freshmen on the women’s side and a men’s team of mostly newcomers at the Clash of the Inland Northwest.

“It’s kind of surprising to be bumped up without running our full teams yet, but it’s always nice to get recognition like that in such a tough region,” Phipps said of the ranking.

The Vandal teams will get a chance to earn another boost in those rankings this Saturday, Sept. 15, when the team runs at the Sundodger Invitational at Seattle, Wash. The meet is hosted by the University of Washington, which holds a No. 2 national ranking on the women’s side and a No. 10 regional ranking among men’s teams.

Phipps said he expects several other strong teams from the region to participate in the meet, and that many teams use the competition as an early measuring stick.

“After this weekend, I think everyone will have a better idea of where they’re ranked in the region,” Phipps said. “We use this first meet in Seattle as kind of a test to see where we’re at and where we compare to previous years, and that’s our main goal.”

On the women’s side, Idaho returns four of its top five runners from last year, including 2011 top collegian Hannah Kiser. The junior from Wenatchee, Wash., will make her season debut after a 2011 cross country season that included her first career NCAA Championships bid. Phipps said she’s extra motivated by the fact that she did not compete during the 2012 outdoor track and field season with illness.

“It’s been a long time since she’s actually raced,” Phipps said. “She’s very excited to compete against the top girls in the region and nation with the University of Washington.”

Vandal senior Barry Britt was the top Idaho men’s finisher last season at third overall and second among collegiate runners in the race. He’ll make his season debut at the race and he’ll try to duplicate his sophomore and junior seasons in which he was regularly a top Idaho finisher and a 2010 USTFCCCA All-Region selection.

“The more opportunities you have to compete against top competition, the better,” Phipps said. “It prepares you for the conference meet and also, going against some of our regional competition will help for the NCAA Regionals, which will be held back in Seattle.”

The meet starts at 9 a.m. (PT) with the women’s open race at Seattle’s Lincoln Park. Idaho’s groups will take part in the Invitational races, which start with the women’s 6000m at 11 a.m. and follows up with the men’s 8000m at 11:35 a.m.

“From the very beginning of the season, we have a race strategy that we like to follow and have perfected by the time we get to conference and regionals, so this is the first test of that,” Phipps said. “We’d like to start out a little conservative in the first part and build up as we go. Our goal is to be very competitive and to race very strongly through the last part of the race.”
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