Cross Country: Runners take sixth over the weekend

Jason Arican

After a disappointing 12th-place finish at last week’s Roy Griak Invitational, Northwestern cross country coach Amy Tush promised to have an improved team in three weeks, just in time for the Pre-National Invitational.

But the Wildcats needed less than one week to back up her word.

Rain left the 5-kilometer course at the Notre Dame Invitational slippery with mud, but the Cats battled through it to a sixth-place finish. Stanford easily beat the field of 24 teams, owning four of the top five finishers for a score of 21.

Before the meet, Tush stressed the importance of finishing better than other Big Ten and regional teams, and the Cats did just that, defeating Purdue, Illinois and Iowa. NU also finished ahead of regional opponents Illinois State and Ball State.

The Cats came in behind a surprising Wisconsin squad, which earned 67 points and a second-place finish. Indiana was the next Big Ten team in the standings, narrowly escaping NU to earn fifth place.

Senior Rachel Evjen continued her streak as the Cats’ top runner with a time of 18:02 — fast enough for 16th overall. Sophomore Diana Hossfeld was the next NU finisher, clocking in at 18:18. She was closely followed by Nicole Kuznia, who finished 31st with a time of 18:22.

“I went out a little faster than I normally do, and I think I paid for it later in the race,” Kuznia said. “I have a lot of high goals for this team and myself. I’m going to be disappointed until we reach those goals. It was a successful race, but we didn’t shock anyone. It would’ve been nice to upset Indiana.”

While most teams were bogged down by the thick mud, NU runners said they benefited from it.

“Nicole and I both like to run in rain and snow and other stuff like that,” Evjen said.

“We’re a tough team,” Kuznia added. “We do well in adverse conditions. Some teams get worried — I actually think it was kinda fun to get out there and run in the mud.”

While NU’s top eight runners were in South Bend, Tush sent the remaining 11 to the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational hosted by Loyola-Chicago.

It was the first race in two weeks for the second squad, and the group improved on its previous showing — a 17-place finish at the Midwest Open two weeks ago — finishing 10th out of 44 teams.

Kalysta HarMonday, who did not race at the Midwest Open, was NU’s fastest runner, finishing the 5-kilometer course in 19:07. Lindsay McAlister, another freshman, finished right behind her at 19:11.

With a week off, the Cats will be able to focus their attention on the meat of their schedule, including the Pre-National Invitational on Oct. 19 and the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 3.