The Iowa State Cyclone's men's cross country team is off to the races this Friday for their season opener in Iowa City.
The Hawkeye Early Bird Invitational will host Iowa, Iowa State and UNI, along with a number of other small colleges and universities. It also features a six-kilometer race for the men, which is two kilometer's shorter than regular season races, and four kilometer's shorter than postseason races.
"It's a break up in our training, and a chance to go over strategy." assistant coach Jeremy Sudbury said. "It's how we evaluate young talent, and the older guys get to see the work they've put in over the summer."
In addition to opening their competitive season on Friday, the Cyclone's grabbed a 12th place ranking in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division 1 Preseason polls, which were released Tuesday.
This is the their highest preseason ranking in school history and they are coming off a successful 2016 season that featured a trip to the National Championships in Terre Haute, Indianna.
The Cyclone distance squad took home some hardware at the Hawkeye Early Bird meet last season, placing first as a team with four of the seven racers finishing in the top ten. Additionally, only one of those top four finishers has graduated.
The Cyclones may even have some young blood out on the course, potentially running some true freshmen. However the official race lineup isn't set in stone yet.
"As with any road trip, it's a bonding experience too," Sudbury said.
Sudbury emphasized the importance of the concept "the team" this season. He explained that traveling offers an opportunity for the team to spend some more time together.
"The biggest thing is continuing to translate what we're doing in practice to actual meets," Sudbury said. "It's an opportunity to see how we stack."