Brian Nicholson, Deseret News
Natalie Shields crosses the finish line in second place overall at the Deseret News 10K women's race in Salt Lake City Tuesday , July 24, 2012. (Brian Nicholson, Deseret News)

The Cougar women’s cross-country team will host the BYU Autumn Classic at home Saturday. The team is racing the 5k at 10:50 a.m. at the Clarence F. Robison Track and Field Complex on campus. BYU welcomes No. 24 Weber State, the University of Portland and Idaho State.

“This is the best competition we have had in 15 years for this invitational,” head coach Patrick Shane said. “We know that we have good competition, we are at home and we are motivated to show that we are a better team than we were last year.”

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After leading the team throughout the 2012 season as a freshman, some of the pressure will be off Natalie Shields this season. With matured returners and a talented recruiting class, BYU is expected to have a strong showing this weekend. Standout performances are anticipated from Rachel Stewart, Lindsey Sowards Nielson, Andrea Nelson Harrison, Maren Fassmann, Nicole Nielsen, Sarah Yingling, Angela Ellsworth and Emily Rich.

“I am really excited about this year because we are a very different team than we were a year ago,” Shane said.