Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's and women's cross country teams will host the 44th annual Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational this Saturday, Sept. 8, at FSU's Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Mich.
The women's collegiate 5,000-meter race is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. (ET) and will be followed by the men's collegiate 8,000-meter event at approximately 10 a.m. (ET).
Two high school races will also be a part of the invitational schedule with the prep boys 5,000 meters set to start at 11 a.m. (ET) proceeded by the girls 5,000 meters at 11:45 a.m. (ET). The invitational is open to the public and admission is free of charge.
In addition to Ferris State, a number of conference and regional teams traditionally take part in the collegiate races in addition to unattached competitors. Several local high school teams will be part of the prep races.
The Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational was renamed in 2010 in honor of former coach Ray Helsing, who passed away in 2014. He 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 (2018) marks the 43rd-straight (44th 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 did not participate in men's cross country from 1994-98. The women's invitational has been held every year since the program began in 1980. Saturday's run will be the 39th consecutive women's race.
Katke Golf Course, which opened in 1974, has 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 and 2011 NCAA-II Midwest Regional Championships at Katke Golf Course along with the 2016 GLIAC Championships.
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 local native Jared Kelsh, who begins his fifth campaign at the Bulldog helm. Saturday's meet will represent the first competition of the season for both FSU teams and give both teams their only opportunity to run on their home course this fall.
The Bulldog men's cross country team has qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championships twice in the last six years after previously having not reached the final round since 1985. Meanwhile, the Bulldog women's team has qualified for the NCAA-II Nationals five times in the last 10 years heading into the 2018 campaign.