Cross Country: Hasay to make collegiate debut in front of Ducks fans

Today’s Bill Dellinger Invitational in Eugene, Ore., will be a cross country résumé builder on a number of fronts.

For one, it will be the first collegiate race for former Mission Prep standout Jordan Hasay, a freshman for the No. 2 Ducks women’s team.

Some expect Hasay — a national name with one top-10 finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials to her credit — to propel an already strong Oregon team to the national title.

As usual with Hasay, expectations are high, and her debut race is eagerly anticipated.

Hasay was unavailable for comment this week.

The fourth annual Dellinger Invitational will also have meaning for the Cal Poly men’s cross country team, which will try to leverage the event for a potential at-large berth to its fourth straight NCAA Championship meet.

The Ducks men are the defending national champions and return this season as the top-ranked team in the country. At this early stage of the season, Cal Poly coach Mark Conover said the No. 18 Mustangs are not shooting hard for the big upset, but the race still has postseason implications, mainly because of its stacked and diverse field.

“We’ve always run pretty well here,” Conover said, “but, definitely, we’re not aiming to have our peak performance in early October. You want to be ready at the end where it really counts. All these earlier-season races are a means for an end, for ranking purposes and trying to obtain wins to help you in the selection process.”

If Cal Poly is able to outpoint NCAA Championship caliber teams from other regions at invitational meets like this, it gives the Mustangs a stronger argument to earn one of 13 at-large berths if they fail to qualify automatically.

Only the top two teams from each of nine regions receive automatic bids to the NCAA team championships. If Cal Poly has beaten some of the other teams seeking at-large bids or automatic qualifiers from other regions, it looks good.

Five of the 10 men’s teams for the 8,000-meter Dellinger Invitational are ranked in the top 20 nationally, including No. 8 Portland, No. 9 Alabama and No. 12 BYU. Colorado State, San Francisco, Villanova, UTEP and Weber State comprise the rest of the men’s field.

“We’ve always gotten what we wanted out of this meet,” Conover said. “We’ve always come out of this with an at-large win or two.”

No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Villanova and No. 14 Baylor lead the 5,000-meter women’s field that also includes Colorado State, Hawaii, Oregon State, Portland, San Francisco, UTEP and Weber State.

Individually, Conover wasn’t ready to promote any of his runners as a potential early season standout. The top returning runner is senior Daniel Gonia, who paced Cal Poly in every race last season and was shooting for a top-25, All-American finish at last season’s NCAA Championships but had to settle for 73rd.

Top recruit Chris Schwartz of Foothill High in Bakersfield, a former CIF state track and cross country champion, will likely redshirt for a deep Mustangs team already with 13 runners, Conover said.

“What’s interesting about this team (is that its) a real big solid group of people who are all basically interchangeable as far as who’s going to finish in what order of the team,” Conover said. “It makes for a good team. The big goal is try to have our top five scorers and hopefully our top seven with a certain amount of time between each other, giving a good pack type performance.

“If somebody is able to step out and be more of a frontrunner, that can always help, too.”