By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods cross country team is the defending national champions coming into the 2010 season and are beginning to get healthy at the right time heading into the stretch run.
A pair of former Northview Knights are key contributors to the squad in their second year of collegiate competition. Casandra Barnett and Allie True are part of a Pomeroys' squad that competed at the Rose-Hulman Gibson Family Classic in Terre Haute on Saturday.
True is beginning to round into form after missing the first half of the season with some medical problems and Barnett continues to be one of the team's top runners after each had strong freshmen seasons.
In last weekend's meet, the Pomeroys competed in a 12-team field of tough cross country teams and placed seventh in the field with 189 points. Bellarmine was the winner with 22 points, placing six runners in the top-10 of the six-kilometer race.
Barnett was third on the team with a finish of 43rd overall in a time of 27:13 with True finishing in 31:47.
Coach Danelle Readinger was quick to praise both of the girls' efforts and contributions this season.
"Allison True is now back and running with us, after some medical issues, which had caused her to take some time off," Readinger said. "She is working hard every day, and gaining ground. We are hoping by next cross country season to have Allie back in full condition. She currently is running for us, and doing very well with the circumstances. Last weekend (Greater Louisville Classic 10/2/10) she competed and ran 25:16.
"Cassandra (CJ) has had an amazing season thus far," Readinger added. "She continues to be a leader on the team by placing in the top-5 and helping our score, she has run 21:06 this season, which puts her in our top-6 best times. CJ is a quiet leader on our team. She has set her goals high for Nationals, and we are working together to achieve them."
Next up for SMWC will be a trip to Kentucky to compete in the Brescia College Invitational at 10:30 a.m.
The Wabash Valley Family Sports Center will play host to the biggest cross country invitational in the nation this weekend as the Pre-National Invitational takes place on Saturday. Eighteen of the top-30 men's cross country teams will be on hand along with 18 of the top-30 women's teams along with a number of other schools that have received votes in the polls this season.
Over 1,600 runners will compete in the six races on Saturday with gates opening at 9 a.m. with the women's 6,000-meter blue race opening the action at 11 a.m.
Top-ranked Stanford heads up four, top-10 men's teams and the third-ranked Florida State women lead the field.
Indiana State is the host school for the event and both the men and women's Sycamore squads will be competing along with a number of former Northview runners.
The Sycamore women are coming off an outstanding performance in the Notre Dame Invitational held on Oct. 1.
The women placed fourth out of 19 teams in the Gold Division with the men finishing 10th out of 21 teams in the Blue Division.
"We beat some pretty good teams," John McNichols, Indiana State men's cross country coach said. "We were maybe 40 points away from really doing some damage. We are getting better, health wise, and now we can get back to our training and prepare for the Pre-Nationals."
Indiana State women's cross country coach John Gartland was equally upbeat about his team's performance.
"We had a pretty good team performance in a competition that was much tougher than I expected," Gartland said. "We competed pretty hard down the stretch."
Oakland University won the women's Gold Division with 91 points followed by West Virginia (104), Wisconsin-Oshkosh (115), and Indiana State (168). Wisconsin-Oshkosh is ranked sixth in Division III. The rest of the top 10 was Western Michigan in fifth (169) followed by Calvin College (170), Eastern Illinois (173), Wisconsin-Stevens Point (257), and Ball State (261).
The Sycamore women were led by senior Allison Malone, who placed 14th in 18:22. Sophomore Kylee Thacker, a former Northview standout, placed 49th in 18:56.
Another Northview grad, Shelby Sands, competed in the open race and finished 69th in 24:08.
At the University of Southern Indiana, the seventh-ranked Screaming Eagles' men's cross country team competed at the Greater Louisville Classic, the site of the 2010 NCAA II Midwest Region and NCAA National Championship meets.
USI finished with 488 points, six points behind the University of Missouri.
Former Northview runner, John Latta, placed 233rd overall with a time of 26:17 in the eight-kilometer race.
The Screaming Eagles will be in action this weekend with a Saturday trip to the Fast Cats Classic at Owensboro, Ky.
Last weekend, former Clay City Eel, Adam Schroer, put forth another standout performance in leading the Taylor men's cross country team to a third-place finish at the seven team Bethel College Invitational on Friday at St. Patrick's Park in South Bend.
Schroer covered the course in 26:41 to finish fourth overall in the race held at the same course that the Mid-Central College Conference championship meet will be run on later in the season.
"That was a big time race for Adam," Taylor head coach Ted Bowers said. "I was happy to see him break out with just a tremendous effort."
Taylor will compete again on Oct. 23 at the Great Lakes Invitational at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids, Mich.