Today the University of Toledo hosted an invitational called the Inter-Regional Bubble Buster. It was a women’s only meet, and just 4k at that, but a pretty good field was assembled.
The final scores, and each team’s current ranking…
36 Arkansas (#2 South Central region)
57 West Virginia (#19 national / #5 Mid-Atlantic region)
101 San Francisco (#6 West region)
106 Columbia (#4 Northeast region)
115 Toledo (#29 national / #2 Great Lakes region)
135 Baylor (#3 South Central region)
152 Ohio State (#5 Great Lakes region)
204 Eastern Michigan (#11 Great Lakes region)
The meet was designed as an invitational seeking to give teams who are expected to sit on the “bubble” of qualifying to the NCAA Championships a chance to compete against each other. The concept is much like ESPN’s BracketBusters college basketball extravaganza (and obviously borrows from its name), except that not all the teams are from so-called “mid-major” conferences-but similarly, none are traditional powers in women’s cross country.
Toledo coach Kevin Hadsell intentionally scheduled the meet on a late Friday afternoon so that local high school coaches and athletes could come and watch. A few even tailgated before the meet. I’m very appreciative of his effort to include college cross country’s natural fan base, the high school runner, and I’d like more coaches to follow his lead.
As for the race itself, West Virginia was favored due to their #19 national ranking. They did have three runners right up front, with Kate Harrison, Kaitlyn Gillespie and Sarah-Anne Brault finishing 1-2-5. But by the first mile, Arkansas had imposed its will on the competition, at one point running 1-6-7-8-9 (they finished 3-6-7-8-12) and taking an easy win.
The Hogs’ coach, Lance Harter, liked the meet concept and lavished praise on the course. The meet was held on the Ottawa Park golf course, the oldest public golf course west of New York City, which will also host this year’s Great Lakes regional. He thought it good enough to host an NCAA Championship (save issues about a start line wide enough for 288 runners) and liked it very much.
(Full disclosure: I grew up right near this park, ran the course many times in high school, coached teams that ran on it, and will have my ashes scattered there. If Harter hadn’t said anything nice about the course, I would have kept asking until someone did. But I didn’t have to.)
Hadsell promised that this brand-new meet will be held again next year, likely on the same weekend, and will add a men’s race as well. (Toledo dropped men’s track a few years back, and as a result the men’s side of the UT cross country program isn’t nearly as competitive as the women’s.) Rest assured I’ll be there, and maybe offering video coverage via this website or another (such as Flotrack.org).