HOLLAND -- The small college cross country season begins Saturday (Sept. 4) with the traditional Vanderbilt Invitational hosted by Hope College.

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

Begin in 1966, the meet is named 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. He 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. He heads the Community Foundation of the Holland-Zeeland area.

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

Teams scheduled to complete include Albion, Alma, Cedarville, Ohio (women only), Cornerstone, Davenport, Grace Bible, Hope and Kirkland Community (men only).

In 2003, Hope won the women's invitational championship for a third consecutive year while Albion won the men's meet for a third straight year with Hope finishing second.