Oregon will toe the line at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships on Friday in Stanford, Calif., but the Ducks' training has definitely been geared toward a meet that is still three weeks away.
Still, Oregon coach Robert Johnson said his two teams will be ready to compete.
“This is what we’ve always been about, being in the championship season,” Johnson said earlier this week before the Ducks headed off to the Bay Area for what is the first of three meets to end the season, including the NCAA West Regionals on Nov. 9 and the NCAA championships Nov. 17 in Madison, Wis.
“We want to be really good in another (three) weeks and this is a stepping stone along the way,” Oregon senior Jessica Hull said. “Last week we banked a lot of really good work and we might not see that come out on Friday, but we will see in it three weeks.”
Hull will lead the fourth-ranked Oregon women in their 6,000-meter race at 11:10 a.m. at the Stanford Golf Course. The 11th-ranked Oregon men’s 8,000-meter race is scheduled for 12:10 p.m.
The meet will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks and will feature both returning individual champions as well as nine teams in the top 25 of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association computer rankings.
Besides Oregon, the women’s race will include No. 1 Colorado, No. 6 Stanford and No. 16 Washington. The Buffaloes have won three straight Pac-12 titles and have 2017 champion Dani Jones anchoring their squad again this season.
The men’s race will include No. 4 Stanford, No. 7 Washington, No. 8 Colorado and No. 12 UCLA. Last season the Cardinal, led by Grant Fisher's individual victory, snapped the Buffaloes’ six-year run of Pac-12 titles.
The Ducks last won a Pac-12 women’s title in 2014, while the men’s last win came in 2008 when Galen Rupp claimed his second career title.
“Pac-12s is where you see everyone’s strong lineup and everyone just goes for it,” Oregon redshirt senior Blake Haney said. “And it’s a championship race so I think everyone wants to win it. I think it’s a big deal to win it.”
It will be the first Pac-12 championship meet for new Oregon distance coaches Ben Thomas and Helen Lehman-Winters, who are still trying to play catch up after not getting to Eugene until August.
“We kind of got off to a late start getting them here and getting them acclimated, but training-wise it has been going really well,” said Johnson, who estimated the Ducks are roughly 10 days behind where they would normally be at by this time of the season. “Everybody is healthy and we look for everyone to be competing this coming weekend. Really excited for the men and women and where we can go.”