The small college cross country season begins Saturday (Aug. 31) with the traditional Hope College invitational involving teams from Michigan.

The meet will be run at the historic city-owned Van Raalte Farm on east 16th Street beginning at 11 a.m.

Known as the Hope Invitational since its founding in 1966, the meet is being renamed in honor of William Vanderbilt, Sr. who coached the Hope cross country program from 1971-87.

A 1961 Hope graduate, Vanderbilt guided Hope cross country teams to 17 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championships, 14 by the men and three by the women. Vanderbilt coached current Hope cross country coach Mark Northuis who was an All-MIAA distance runner. Northuis won the 1979 Hope Invitational.

While at Hope, Vanderbilt chaired the department of physical education, recreation and athletics. He also served as president of the NCAA Division III Cross Country Coaches Association and in 1987 brought the Division III national championships to Holland.

As a student-athlete, he lettered in basketball, baseball and track. He was captain of the basketball team as a senior and won the MIAA championship in the high jump in 1959. He received the masters degree from the University of Michigan and the Ph.D. from the University of Utah.

Vanderbilt left the Hope faculty in 1988 to head the Community Foundation of the Holland-Zeeland Area.

The first Hope Invitational was held in men's cross country in 1966. The women's cross country component was added in 1980.

Teams scheduled to compete include Albion, Alma, Cornerstone, Hope and Olivet.

In 2001, Hope won the women's invitational championship while Albion was the champion in the men's competition with Hope finishing second.

This will be Hope's only home meet this season. There will be several other invitationals in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and New York before the conference championships are hosted by Alma on Nov. 2 and the NCAA Great Lakes Regionals by Ohio Northern on Nov. 16.