With football, soccer, and volleyball seasons already underway in 2017, the ICCAC cross country teams open up their season this weekend at the Region XI Time Trials hosted by Iowa Western. All nine ICCAC cross country programs will be in attendance.
The race is a 5k course for both the men's and women's competitions. Teams are permitted to run an unlimited number of athletes in the Time Trials, giving both the coaches and athletes an idea about where they stand heading into the season in a relatively uncompetitive atmosphere.
Each team will have different goals for the 2017 season. A few are national contenders, while others will look to maintain a healthy, competitive roster for postseason competition.
"We are fortunate that every year the ICCAC is one of the best NJCAA conferences in the country," remarked Southwestern head coach Trey Bruton.
"Even as a first year head coach in the conference, I recognize that this allows all of us as coaches the opportunity to gauge our teams against some of the stiffest competition that we face at this level."
Southwestern women are coming off the best-ever NJCAA meet finish in 2012, while the men's side are back in postseason eligibility after having to miss last season.
"We have high expectations at Southwestern this year and hope to take advantage of the time trials to springboard ourselves into what we expect to be a very successful season for our program," said Bruton.
A different program will be running in their first-ever competition this weekend as Hawkeye enters their first year as a cross country program.
"With us being a first year program, we are just looking to see where our fitness levels are and how we compete," said Hawkeye head coach Micah Ruroden.
"We are really looking to see how things shakeout amongst our own men and women."
The Time Trials have proven, in recent years, to be a pretty fair indicator of how the Region XI Championships finish in late October. Of the top 10 finishers on both the men's and women's sides of the 2016 Time Trials, only two runners changed their placing by more than three places by the end of the season.
While the Region XI Championships are still two months away, and plenty of time for improvement, the Time Trials will set the bar for the early season favorites.