By Chad Hensley, NKU Sports Information

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. - The Northern Kentucky University cross country teams will face stiff competition when they travel to Louisville to take part in the 2008 Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park on Saturday.

Due to the massive number of entrants, the Greater Louisville Sports Commission has broken the men’s and women’s races into two separate events each – the Gold and Blue Divisions. Both NKU squads will be taking part in the Gold Division races, which is made up of mostly NCAA Division I competition.

Among the teams the NCAA Division I teams that NKU will be squaring off against are Great Lakes Valley Conference rivals Southern Indiana, Bellarmine, and Missouri S&T.

“(This meet) will give us our first glimpse of Southern Indiana, which is ranked nationally in the top-15 for both their men’s and women’s programs,” NKU head coach Steve Kruse said. “Aside from USI, there are some other very, very good teams that will be in attendance and challenge our teams.”

The Norse are coming off strong individual and team performances in the 36th Annual Sean Earl Loyola Lakefront Invitational in Chicago, Ill., on Sept. 27.

“Both of our teams had favorable starting positions and both were able to get out of the gate well. The men’s strategy was to set an even but competitive pace and work together whenever possible,” Kruse said.

Drew Harris, a sophomore from Alexandria, Ky., was able to take full advantage of that strategy has his time of 25:17 was the second-fastest eight-kilometer time in program history. For his 13th place performance, Harris was awarded the team runner of the week honor.

Matthew Shoulta and Ryne Smith each scurried their way to strong performances. Shoulta finished the course in a time 25:52 while Smith finished with a time of 26:10.

The Norse welcomed back Zach Koehler to the course after battling a nagging injury throughout the preseason and the beginning of the regular season. Koehler might have only finished fourth on the team and 57th overall, but as Kruse stated, “It was a much welcomed sight to see Zach back in the line-up and doing what he does best while tearing through the back 40 of this segmented course.”

The women were led by Jenna Siemer’s 19:05 performance in their five-kilometer race. Siemer, a graduate of St. Henry, averaged a 6:09 mile on her way to a 43rd place finish.

“The women only had 3.1 miles to get the job done, which does not give a runner much time,” Kruse said. “Our girls needed to establish early, battle the second mile, and run possessed the last mile. After a good start, the race just got away from us. Jenna ran a nice first mile and followed up acceptably, but faded in the final minute.”

Janice Laker ran a nice race and finished 81st with a time of 19:43. Laker, a junior from Batesville, Ind., was closely followed by teammates Jerrica Maddox, Rose Morgan, Kira Cooper, and Tarah Cole – all finished within 1:04 of Laker.

The 2008 Greater Louisville Classic will be comprised of a women’s field that includes 596 individual competitors on 62 teams while the men’s field includes 661 harriers on 65 squads.

The men’s Gold Division race will begin at 9:30 a.m. while the women’s Gold Division race will start 10:15 a.m.