Cross-country teams head to Roy Griak Invitational


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

Aliphine Tuliamuk (left) and Betsy Saina race the final lap during the women’s 5,000-meter run during the indoor season. 

Emily Hejlik

The ISU men’s and women’s cross-country teams will encounter their first big test of the season this weekend.

The Cyclones will travel to the University of Minnesota to compete in the 27th Annual Roy Griak Invitational, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“The Roy Griak Invitational is always a bench mark meet for us,” said coach Corey Ihmels. “It’s not the end-all, be-all, but we need to be competitive and not back down to anyone. You want to see progress.”

Results for the women a season ago at the invitational were favorable.

The women claimed the team title on the 6,000-meter course with three runners placing in the top 15. They were led by then-senior Dani Stack’s eighth-place finish, with Meaghan Nelson and Betsy Saina following close behind, earning 13th- and 15th-place finishes.

The men’s squad was paced by graduated senior Rico Loy’s 13th-place finish on the 8,000-meter course. Junior Martin Coolidge finished 17th, and the team achieved a sixth-place finish.

This coming weekend’s meet presents a first for even the most experienced of runners.

“This will be my first race of the cross-country year, so I’m going to see how things go and change anything depending on how I do,” said Saina, a four-time All-American. “This meet will really prepare me for the rest of the season.”

The Roy Griak Invitational is host to larger schools, posing more of a challenge than any other meet has provided for Cyclones thus far.

“This meet will show us how good we really are,” Saina said. “I’m excited to see how everyone does against better competition.”

On the men’s side, the invitational hopes to be a turning point for the better.

“The Roy Griak will set the tone for the remainder of the season,” said junior Martin Coolidge. “The last two years we’ve struggled at this race. We need to establish good momentum going forward.”

The team will be vying to score several points by beating ranked teams, something the squad failed to do the past two seasons.

“Coach always stresses to us that you don’t have to run spectacular, but to just run as well as you’re capable of,” Coolidge said. “This is the most important meet other than regionals and conference — I have no doubt that we can place in the top three.”