Eagles head to Sundodger Invitational with hopes of improvement
The Eastern Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams will head to Seattle, Wash., Saturday (Sept. 17) for the Sundodger Invitational hosted by the University of Washington.
“I’m hoping Sundodger helps us get a little more serious,” said head coach Chris Zeller. “In our first meet a couple weeks ago, there was little pressure. There wasn’t a whole lot of expectation. With Sundodger, I definitely expect the team to be more serious.”
The men’s race will be 8,000 meters and the women’s 6,000. The Eagles participated in the same race last year, with both teams finishing in sixth place.
After an early season debut at the Clash of the Inland Northwest (CINW) in Spokane, the men’s team is looking to turn youth into experience.
“We really kind of evaluated the men’s different paces throughout the race,” said Zeller. “They did a pretty god job of running evenly, but I’d like them to continue to improve. I’m not worried about our top three guys right now. I’m paying more attention to the ones that will add the depth our team needs. It will be the fourth, fifth and sixth runners that will need to step up their game a little bit.”
Junior Drake DaPonte and freshman Alex Avila are two runners that Zeller is looking to make significant contributions. DaPonte, a transfer from Washington State, is receiving his first real experience running with the team after being ineligible for much of last season. Avila, a redshirt freshman, is still relatively new to the collegiate cross country scene.
“The main thing is having them run together on recovery days,” said Zeller. “Guys like Alex need to run with (senior) Bowe Ebding and (senior) Graham Vaux. Just that face and contact time will be really good for him.”
The women’s team will be without its top placer from the previous meet, as freshman Katie Mahoney will not be running in Seattle. Sophomore Kimberly Macias will also be sitting out this race. Another freshman, Chelsea Stokes, whom Zeller speaks highly of, is still not ready to participate due to a hip injury. Zeller says Stokes could run, but they are proceeding on the side of caution to not worsen the injury.
Two more newcomers, freshman Berenice Penaloza and Whitworth transfer Tonya Turner, are expected to run their first race wearing the red and white.
“Hopefully we will have Tonya turn out,” said Zeller. “I’m really excited to see what she can do. Berenice should be out there as well. Hopefully once we get those two running, and get Katie and Kimberly back, we can be at full strength once again.”
Although winning is always the No. 1 goal, Zeller is hoping to see some growth from both teams in Seattle.
“It’s still early in the season,” he said. “For right now, the big thing is to grow and learn, regardless of the outcome.”