With two potential qualifiers for the NCAA Championships and two home meets on its schedule, the Cal State Stanislaus cross country teams are anticipating a monster season.
It starts Saturday with the Stanislaus Invitational, to be held for the first time on the Turlock campus instead of at Legion Park in Modesto.
Coach Kim Duyst said Saturday's meet will be a "dry run" for the California Collegiate Athletic Association Championships at Stanislaus on Oct. 20.
"We wanted to showcase our campus," Duyst said. "It's a beautiful campus. We have a two-loop figure-eight course that starts right by the parking lot and ends in a grassy area by the pond."
The athletes will be the real highlights of the program, though, Duyst said.
The men are led by five seniors, including All-CCAA runner Bobby Olivera. Erin Frier, who won the Stanislaus Invitational last year, leads a promising young women's team.
Olivera missed All-West Region status by four spots last season, finishing 19th at the championship meet. Duyst said Olivera, Martin Ramos and Jon George arrived in the best shape they've ever been in.
"Jon wasn't a high-mileage guy, and it's really improved quite a bit," Duyst said. "It will be fun to see how he does."
Fellow seniors Jose Morales and Vicente Moreno are expected to round out the top 5 with sophomores Trent Avila and Shane Brookshire following closely and local freshmen Ivan Bojorquez of Los Banos and Stephen Lenz of Turlock contributing. Los Banos product Mark Ramirez, who transferred from Cal Poly Pomona, also could challenge the top seven.
"Bobby's a good front-runner, but there's a good pack not too far from him," Duyst said. "I'm anxious to start up and see them at a meet."
Frier was an All-CCAA and All-West Region runner as a junior. This season, she takes over the top spot vacated by sister Kelly Frier, who graduated.
Erin Frier missed the Division II nationals last year by 11 seconds. At the risk of jinxing herself, Frier said the goal this season is to not only make it to nationals but earn All-America status.
The Warriors were seventh at the West Regional last season, and Frier credited that to a strong late-season push. She thinks this year's team was motivated to work harder over the summer because it saw what it was capable of doing.
"We have a lot of hidden talent," Frier said. "I can tell a lot of them really want it. We have three juniors who are really stepping up since years past. They're really serious. Not many people love cross country, and they're just now discovering a desire to race."