September 15, 2009

FSU To Host Annual Home Cross Country Invite

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Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's and women's cross country teams will host the annual Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational this Friday, Sept. 18, at FSU's Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Mich.

The women's collegiate 5,000-meter race is set to begin at 4 p.m. (EDT) and will be followed by the men's collegiate 8,000-meter event at approximately 4:30 p.m. (EDT). Two high school races will also be a part of the invitational schedule with the prep girls 5,000 meters set for a 5:15 p.m. (EDT) start proceeded by the boys 5,000 meters at 5:45 p.m. (EDT). The invitational is open to the public and admission is free of charge.

In addition to Ferris State, the collegiate invitational field will include a variety of student-athletes from other schools including Ferris, Davenport, Schoolcraft, Kirtland Community College and Wayne Community College.

Among the local high school teams competing will be Big Rapids, Chippewa Hills, Manton, Beal City, Tri-County, Ludington, Crossroads Charter Academy and McBain.

"We've got a great course that is very spectator friendly and it should be an outstanding event," said FSU head coach Steve Picucci.  "It's exciting to get an opportunity to run in front of our home fans and we hope everyone can come out and enjoy the action."

The event was renamed this year in honor of former coach Ray Helsing, who guided the Bulldog cross country along with track and field programs from 1968-82.  Helsing was inducted into the Bulldog Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001 and tutored more All-Americans than any coach in FSU history.  He helped produce 20 All-Americans in cross country and track from 1968-82 and was best known for founding and coaching Ferris cross country, leading his teams to a 77-17 dual meet mark and four Great Lakes Conference titles.

This year (2009) marks the 34th-straight (35th overall) running of the Bulldog Invitational and either a men's or women's collegiate event has been held each year since 1976.

The first men's race was held in 1971 before being discontinued and restarted in 1976. Ferris, which did not participate in men's cross country from 1994-98, has claimed two team titles. The Bulldogs placed second in the men's field in both 2006 & 2007.

The women's invitational has been held every year since the program began in 1980. Friday's run will be the 30th consecutive women's race. The Ferris women have won nine team championships, including five of the last nine years. The Bulldogs won their third consecutive meet title in 2004 then finished third in 2005 before earning runner-up honors in 2006. FSU reclaimed the women's team championship in 2007 as five runners finished among the top 15 participants in the field and took third place in 2008.

Katke Golf Course, which opened in 1974, recently played host to the 2003 GLIAC Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships along with the 2005 NCAA-II Great Lakes Regional Championships and the 2006 Michigan Intercollegiate Championships. The Bulldogs also hosted the 2008 NCAA-II Midwest Regional Championships last fall (Nov. 8) at Katke Golf Course.

A university-owned 18-hole golf course situated on the western flank of the Ferris State campus, Katke Golf Course serves as the host site of all home Bulldog cross country along with men's and women's golf events. The course is named after Mr. and Mrs. Marvin L. Katke, whose generous donation influenced campus development and the initial phase of the golf course. Katke, a friend of Ferris and a Mecosta County native, was vice president for manufacturing of the Ford Motor Company and a 1967 recipient of an honorary degree from FSU.

The Ferris State men's and women's cross country teams are guided by former Bulldog standout and current second-year head coach Steve Picucci. The Bulldog women were ranked 18th nationally in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division II Preseason Rankings along with third in the Midwest Region.

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