Replacing former WSU Cross Country Head Coach Pete Julian isn’t easy, given his success in the past years, but Coach Tim Riley is built for the task.
“I get a lot more phone calls and meetings now,” Riley said. “I like being more involved.”
Riley’s next task is to get the WSU Women Cross Country team prepared and ready for the West Coast Invitational Meet on Sept. 15 in Portland, Ore.
“It’s going to be a good meet,” Riley said.
Schools competing in the West Coast Invitational meet include Gonzaga, Portland and even Division-2 Chico State, which is ranked eighth in the country.
Even with a difficult field, Riley still expects his team to do well in Portland.
“We’re just hoping to compete and see what happens,” Riley said. “I think with Ruby (Roberts) and Caroline (Austin) up front together, (that) will help us out a lot with our team scoring.”
The Cougar women finished in second place in last weekend’s Clash of the Inland Northwest meet, losing to Gonzaga. But the team is just starting to find its groove.
“We’ve learned where our fitness levels are at,” Riley said. “We have such a long season so we’re just starting to get into our training.”
Six runners from last year’s women’s squad returned to this year’s team and are looking to have a strong year. They hope to return to the NCAA Regionals and they aim to compete in the NCAA Championships.
The anchor for this team will be senior runner Caroline Austin, who is already off to a strong start after taking first place in the Clash of the Inland Northwest meet last weekend.
There isn’t much experience on this year’s squad - More than half the runners are freshmen, so preparing the newcomers for the collegiate-style running is a work in progress as well. But WSU has recruited top runners, Riley said.
“It’s just figuring out what works best for them on race day,” Riley said. “They’re getting used to the training system, but are already used to the pressure.”
Molding these freshmen runners into long distance runners won’t be easy, but Riley is well-prepared and has plenty of experience.
“I’ve been in this system for three years now and know what to expect,” Riley said.