Frogs to race top-ranked teams

The Flyin’ Frogs will send six men and seven women cross country team members to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete Saturday in the Pre-National Invitational.Although the meet is not a national qualifier, 30 of the top 35 teams in the country will attend, and the event will still require strong performances from the team, cross country coach Patrick Cunniff said.

Cunniff also said he hopes TCU’s running squads will eventually develop into nationally recognized programs.

He said competing at meets such as the Pre-National Invitational will allow the team to run against higher-ranked schools.

“First and foremost, we want them to get a good race against good competition,” he said. “Then, because we want our cross country programs to become national level programs, we want the team to get that experience in a big meet against highly ranked teams.”

For the women, this weekend’s meet is their first six-kilometer race of the season. Six kilometers is the longest distance in the women’s division and the team has been preparing by gradually running longer distances at its previous two meets.

Junior Calandra Stewart, TCU’s top female runner, expressed enthusiasm about this year’s event. She ran the same course last season, but said rainy weather affected her time.

“I just want to see how fast I can run the race since this is our first 6K,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how I run on a good day with sunshine.”

The men’s team will run an eight-kilometer race at the event, a distance it has been running in competition for most of the season.

Sophomore Matt Manly said he will aim to keep his current status as one of the fastest runners.

“Basically, I just want to run the best that I can do,” Manly said. “Right now, I am currently No. 2 on the team so I just want to maintain that.”

Cunniff said he does not change the practice routine much for a high-caliber meet because it is still early in the season. Training includes running at various distances, calisthenics and working in the weight room twice a week.

“Because this is such a big meet, and because this is such a good chance to run against a high level of competition, we reduce our training a little bit to go into the meet a little bit fresher,” Cunniff said.

Stewart said she often does as many as 1,200 reps at a time to help build her endurance.

Manly said he runs between seven and eight miles daily to preserve his strength and speed.

“I want to run a solid race to convince me that I am maintaining what I need to do to eventually get to Nationals,” Manly said.

The team’s next competition will be at the Mountain West Conference championships Oct. 29