After back-to-back victories by the men to begin the season, the Boston University cross country team looks to continue its success at the Paul Short Invitational hosted by Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., on Friday.
BU will face some of the top programs on the East Coast as it competes against 38 teams in the gold division, including Columbia University, Providence College, Dartmouth College, Cornell University, Brown University and Harvard University, who are ranked third through eighth in the Northeast region, respectively.
The BU men are ranked ninth in the Northeast region, and with a strong effort this weekend, the Terriers could move ahead in the standings.
They are hoping to place in the top 10 on Friday, which BU coach Bruce Lehane said would have a strong impact not only on the rankings, but for the confidence of the runners as well.
“There’s going to be some pretty rigorous competition down there,” Lehane said. “The competition is really difficult, but at the same time, that’s what makes it exciting.”
Junior Rich Peters will likely lead the Terriers as he looks to replicate his first-place performance at the University of New Hampshire Invitational on Sept. 14, which earned him America East Performer of the Week honors.
“Rich Peters, he was our MVP last year,” Lehane said. “He’s been our top guy. He’s been really strong.”
Seniors Matt Paulson and Robert Gibson will aim to make an impact of their own after showing promise with their successes at the Bryant University Invitational on Sept. 8, where they finished first and second, respectively.
Lehane said Friday’s meet could serve as a breakthrough for both.
“Paulson and Gibson are not far behind. They’re really strong runners,” he said. “They haven’t quite done in cross country what they’ve done on the track … but I’m hoping this will be a breakout race for the two of them.”
The women will also face a tough task as they take on 40 of the top teams from the East Coast, including 2011 National Champions, Georgetown University and 2009 and 2010 champions, Villanova University.
The women have gotten off to a slower start to the season, but as freshman standout Shelby Stableford gains experience and junior Monica Adler regains strength after returning from injury, the Lehane foresees the Terriers improving this weekend. “We’re hoping [Adler] will finish in the top 20,” Lehane said.
The field of competition will consist of hundreds of runners, which Lehane said will pose a challenge for some of the women.
“They haven’t been in too many situations where there are literally 100 or 200 runners ahead of them,” he said. “You have to be mentally ready to handle that experience. It’s a challenge when you’re in a race that has that many people. You have to keep your wits about you and stay competitive.”
Despite the challenge ahead, Lehane said he is optimistic and that his team will be successful.
“We’ll surely find out, it’s going to be a very aggressive, tough round,” Lehane said. “Hopefully it’s a high.”