HARRISONBURG, Va. - The reigning two-time Colonial Athletic Association champion James Madison cross country team returns home this weekend when they host the annual JMU Cross Country Open Invitational on Saturday, September 15.
Held at New Market Battlefield in New Market, Va., the runners take to a challenging, mostly grass course in an open area that features long stretches. The men, who run at 10:00 a.m., take a course that is 7,900-meters while the women run a 5,200-meter course beginning at 11:00 a.m.
Head coach David Rinker is ready. Since the meet's results do not count towards qualifying for the conference meet or nationals, it is a low-key way to get back into the swing of cross country racing.
"It's just a chance to race on our home course and compete," Rinker said. "I'm looking forward to lining everyone up and getting out the kinks."
As it is only the second race of the 2012 season for the Dukes, Rinker expects his runners to still be working towards their peak performance level.
"It's about seeing them stick to a race plan," Rinker offered about the home meet.
The Dukes return 16 runners from last year's championship squad, including four All-CAA honorees. Leading the pack will be the 2011 CAA cross country Athlete of the Year Katie Harman (Clarksville, Md./River Hill) who also won the CAA cross country individual title and Most Outstanding Performer honors in 2011. Harman placed second at the 2011 JMU home meet, running the 5.2-kilometer course in 19:13.7, just seven seconds off the lead runner.
Joining her is fellow seniors and All-CAA runners Stacey Nobles (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes) and Katie Gorman (Lafayette Hill, Pa./Plymouth-Whitemarsh), both of whom finished in the top five of the JMU Open Invitational last year. Nobles came in third place with a time of 19:24.6, and Gorman took fifth less than four seconds later (19:28.2). Junior Carrie Payne (Annandale, Va./W.T. Woodson) also turned in a top-10 performance at 20:11.4, earning her a 10th place.
JMU is joined in the women's race by VMI, Howard, Longwood, Mary Baldwin and Southern Virginia. The men's race features teams from Longwood, Howard, Southern Virginia and VMI.
Last year, JMU finished in second place while the U.S. Naval Academy took first place in the women's division of the annual meet. Duke won the men's 7.9-kilometer race, followed by the U.S. Naval Academy.