Lincoln - The Nebraska men's and women's cross country teams hit the course at Pioneers Park on Saturday for their lone home event of the season at the annual Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational. The Huskers will co-host the meet with Nebraska Wesleyan University.
The women's 6k race opens the competition at 10 a.m., followed by the men's 8k event. A total of over 60 men’s and women’s teams will compete with more than 500 student-athletes participating.
The Husker rosters are filled with homegrown runners, including Lincoln natives and co-captains Trevor Vidlak and Sarah Larson.
Vidlak, a Lincoln Northeast graduate, is coming off one of the best performances of his career in an opening-meet win at the Augustana Twilight. The fifth-year senior captured USTFCCCA National Runner-of-the-Week honors after winning the Augustana Twilight in a time of 18:18.03. He also claimed the first Big Ten Runner-of-the-Week award of his career. Vidlak, who did not compete during the 2012 season because of injury, led the Huskers with a fourth-place finish (24:46.22) at the 2011 Woody Greeno/Nebraska Invitational.
Larson, a junior out of Lincoln Northeast, led the Husker women at last year's Woody Greeno with a 14th-place finish (22:26.1).
In addition to the leadership the Huskers expect from Lincoln natives Larson and Vidlak, the NU men also hope to be bolstered by the return of a pair of experienced Nebraska natives.
Senior co-captain Jarren Heng, who was one of Nebraska's top runners despite battling injuries as a junior, expects to make his 2013 season debut Saturday morning at Pioneers Park. The Norfolk native said he can't wait to get back on the course.
“I’m super-excited to get back on the course. It’s a great feeling to compete after not being able to compete for the last year on the track and on the cross country course," Heng said. "It has been a long road back, and I believe the team has a great chance of winning."
Connor Gibson, a junior from Blair who lettered for the Huskers in 2011, also hopes to make a positive impact on the NU men's lineup in his first competition of the season Saturday.
While the returning Nebraska natives hope to lead the Huskers on their home course, freshman Joe Harter plans to leave an impression of his own in his first collegiate race on the Pioneers Park course. Harter, the 2012 Gatorade Nebraska Cross Country Runner of the Year at Millard West High School, was NU's No. 2 finisher at the season-opening Augustana Twilight.
Jacob Olson, the 2011 Gatorade Nebraska Cross Country Runner of the Year at Kearney High, and 2013 Lincoln Southwest grad Lucas Keifer also expect to use their experience on the course to their advantage.
Nebraska Head Coach David Harris said the Huskers have had a two strong weeks of training leading up to the Woody Greeno, but he hopes they are primed to compete at a high level.
“I probably have them a little tired to be honest," Harris said. "The training has been tough. We have tried to work these last two weeks. The last couple days of practice have been a little bit easier, and now it is time to get them rest so their legs can get a little bit of rest."
Harris said the Huskers are looking forward to hosting the event at Pioneers Park.
“Pioneers Park is a course that we probably have over 35 races on during the year with high school events," Harris said. "It is very well known. It is important that we have a home meet. We want to perform really well in front of our track and field athletes and our coaching staff that will be out there. We don’t compete at home that much. This is the only time we do that.”
The Huskers started their season out with an impressive showing at the Augustana Twilight in Sioux Falls, S.D., on Sept. 6. The NU men took the crown and the women finished second. Harris said he hoped for even more success from a talented group of freshmen.
“I think its two fold, we got our freshman some experience at Augustana, now it time to have a pattern of training and I believe they know what to expect a little more.” Harris said, “The veterans their goals are set for this meet because they have ran this course, we are really shooting to have people finish in the top 25 in this meet.”