Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University men's and women's cross country teams will host the annual Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational this Saturday, Sept. 10, at FSU's Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids, Mich.
The women's collegiate 5,000-meter race is set to begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) and will be followed by the men's collegiate 8,000-meter event at approximately 11:30 p.m. (EDT).
Two high school races will also be a part of the invitational schedule with the prep girls 5,000 meters set to start the day's activities at 10 a.m. (EDT) proceeded by the boys 5,000 meters at 10:30 a.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, Hillsdale, Lake Superior State, Grand Valley State, Northwood, Lake Erie and Bellarmine (Ky.) in addition to unattached competitors.
Among the local high school teams competing will be Big Rapids, Crossroads Charter Academy, Lake City, Beal City and St. Louis.
"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."
Saturday's race will give participants a look at the regional site as FSU will also host the 2011 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championships on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Katke Golf Course.
The Ray Helsing Bulldog Invitational was renamed last 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 (2011) marks the 36th-straight (37th 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 32nd consecutive women's race.
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 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 fourth-year head coach Steve Picucci. The Bulldog women were ranked seventh nationally in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Division II Preseason National Rankings along with second in the Midwest Region while the men's team was listed 10th in the regional rankings.