Fresh legs pace Cats at elite national invitational

Brandon Kreines

She’s been one of the few bright spots on the Northwestern cross country team this season.

“I really like it, I like the competition,” freshman Marie Grabinski said.

Grabinski quickly has become the Wildcats’ top runner, placing first among her teammates in every meet she’s competed in this year.

The Pre-Regional Invitational, which featured 75 teams, including the nation’s elite, was no different.

Grabinski led NU in the team’s 35th-place finish on Saturday at the six-kilometer Pre-Regional Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind.

Stanford cruised to the title, beating second place Notre Dame by 62 points.

Grabinski placed 100th in a race of 252 runners but said she’s pleased with her results so long as she challenges herself.

“Afterward, if I didn’t push myself hard enough, then I’m not happy with the result.” Grabinski said. “If I finish and achieve the goals I set, then I’m happy.”

While Grabinski and five other NU runners ran in Indiana, the Cats sent 10 runners to a smaller race, the five-kilometer Forester Invite hosted by Lake Forest College in Vernon Hills, Ill., on Saturday.

Six NU runners finished in the top 10.

Although Grabinski only started cross country her senior year of high school, she has found her niche in the sport.

“I love running,” Grabinski said, “In high school you don’t run against so many people.

“But here there are so many people around you (during the race). I really like running in that atmosphere.”

Coach Amy Tush said Grabinski’s athleticism made her one of NU’s prime recruiting targets.

“(Grabinski) played tennis and ran track and cross country in high school, which is a good combination,” Tush said. “She’s also got a great mental attitude and spirit.”

Tush added that Grabinski has had a considerable impact on the squad.

“I think everyone on the team is just pleased to have such a positive person,” Tush said. “She has a lot of potential, and we’re all learning together.”

Grabinski and nine Cats will run in the the Big Ten Championship on Oct. 31 in Iowa City, Iowa.

With the conference championship and NCAA Midwest Regional looming, the Cats are focusing on preparing for the stretch run.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Grabinski said. “Throughout the season we’ve been improving.

“I think I ran a lot better against other Big Ten runners (this weekend) than earlier in the season. I’m looking to improve.”

Reach Brandon Kreines at [email protected]