By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — UVa cross country coach Jason Vigilante knows what to expect from his top runners: Emil Heineking on the men’s side and Catherine White on the women’s.
At the Panorama Farms Invitational, which will be held Friday at Virginia’s home course in Earlysville, Vigilante hopes to learn more about their teammates. The ACC championships are little more than two weeks away, and Heineking and White will need help if the Cavaliers are to capture the team titles.
“As much as anything, this meet is going to serve its purpose, because our teams really will find out what they’re made of,” Vigilante said Thursday.
“The one piece of information both teams need to discover is who’s going to step up and be a contender [at the ACC meets].”
Heineking, a junior from Ohio, is the first UVa runner to be a two-time All-American in cross country. He placed 26th at the NCAA championships last year.
White, a junior who grew up in Roanoke, transferred from Arkansas to UVa this summer. As a sophomore in 2008-09, she won Southeastern Conference titles in cross country and in the outdoor 5,000 and 10,000 meters, after which she was named the SEC women’s runner of the year.
The UVa men, who have won back-to-back ACC titles, are ranked No. 15 nationally. The Virginia women are ranked 10th. Both teams will competing Friday in a field filled with elite runners.
The women’s teams include No. 2 Villanova and No. 14 Duke. In the men’s race, Virginia will battle such teams as 11th-ranked Syracuse, 24th-ranked Villanova and 26th-ranked Duke.
The women’s race, which starts at 4 p.m., is a 6K (about 3.75 miles). The men will start at 4:45 p.m. and run an 8K (about 5 miles).
The caliber of competition will be comparable, Vigilante said, to what UVa’s teams can expect to face Oct. 31 at the ACC championships in Cary, N.C.
Two other major meets are scheduled for this weekend: Indiana State’s Pre-Nationals Invitational in Terre Haute, site of the NCAA cross country championships, and the Chile Pepper Festival at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
“I feel fortunate that these other coaches are traveling here when I know they could be at another place,” said Vigilante, who wants to make this meet at annual event.
“I’m hopeful we can put something on that that they’ll want to come back to. It’s a real thrill for me, because we have a wonderful place to run.”
Steve Murray, an ardent supporter of local running, owns Panorama Farms, which offers runners a stunning setting in which to compete.
“It’s amazing that we get to run there,” Vigilante said.
Rain or shine, the races will be run Friday, and Vigilante encouraged fans to attend. The first 100 kids to arrive will each receive a free cross country T-shirt, and a clinic for children 12 and younger will be held around 5:15 p.m.
Directions to Panorama Farms can be found at this link.