USC Looks To Defend Aztec Invitational Title Saturday

    Junior captain Erica Capellino seeks to become a two-time winner of the Aztec Invitational when the Trojans race in San Diego on Saturday. USC will also be seeking a repeat as team champion, capturing the 2012 crown with a team low score of 39.

    Sept. 18, 2013

    The USC women's cross country team will compete at the 69th Annual Aztec Invitational on Sept. 21 at historic Balboa Park in San Diego. The 5K race begins at 9:30 a.m. and the Trojans will be attempting to defend their team title, capturing the 2012 Aztec Invitational with a low point total of 39 as Eric Capellino won the race and Jenna Tong took third.

    "The meet overall is an early season meet. I would like to see the growth and development that we have had the last couple of weeks in training translate over to race day," said cross country coach David Freeman. "We will kind of use this race as another marker of growth in their racing ability. We will continue to work on improving and see where it takes us."

    The 10 runners scheduled to compete for USC are Erica Capellino, Nicole Davies, Lauren Grego, Jenna Tong, Austin Lundin, Erin Matranga, Erin Robinson, Kira Soderstrom, Natasha Strickland and Lindsay Enright.

    Capellino won the meet last season with a time of 18:11.5, 16 seconds faster than she ran on the Balboa Course in finishing second as a freshman and 10 seconds better than the 2011 winner. Capellino became the first Trojan since Sarah Cocco in 2007 to win the Aztec Invitational and her time was the fastest individual time by a Trojan on the course since Cocco won with a time of 17:43 that same season. Also, the win by Capellino was the first by a USC cross country runner since Zsofia Erdelyi won the CS Northridge Invitational on Oct. 16, 2010. Tong, in just her second collegiate race, took third with a time of 18:33.8.



    "Obviously with the program this year...the overall program, not just cross country, we want to raise expectations and set goals," said Freeman. "We want to be one of the top teams and challenge for the win. Every meet we go to, we want to do our best and that could and should result in us being one of the top teams at the competition."

    The Balboa course will present a good challenge for the Trojans. The opening mile of the women's 5K course crosses grass, pavement and dirt trails and is relatively flat, except for one 40-meter uphill about 800 meters from the start. The second mile offers challenging, rolling terrain, beginning with a sharp downgrade called "Powder Hill" and ending with a brutal 100-meter incline known as the "Concrete Switchback." The last mile and a fraction is completely flat along a seemingly never-ending row of tall palm trees.

    USC will be training next week and will race again at the NCAA Inter-Regional Jamboree in Sacramento on Oct. 4. Sacramento is the site of the NCAA West Regional, so it will provide the Trojans with a chance to get the feel of the course and gain race experience at a site where they hope to compete later in the season.