Teammates can’t keep pace with each other, finish last at Big Tens (Cross Country)

Andrew Simon

If the Wildcats are going to close the gap on the competition, they are going to have to close the gaps in their own lineup first.

NU learned this important lesson at the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, where the Cats finished last in the 11-team field.

According to coach Amy Tush, the squad’s biggest problem was its spacing at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn.

“We have to decrease the gap from our top four to our fifth runner, no matter who they are,” Tush said. “There can’t be a minute between our fourth and fifth runners.”

Freshman Hilary Forman was NU’s fourth finisher, coming in 66th in 23:34. The next NU finisher, freshman Carly Brown, came in 82nd with a time of 24:30.

One bright spot for NU on an otherwise tough day was sophomore Celia Franklin, a Daily staffer, who led the team by finishing 44th.

Earlier this season at the Roy Griak Invitational, which is run on the same course as the Big Ten Championships, Franklin was the team’s seventh runner with a time of 24:30. But on Sunday, Franklin finished in 22:45.

“I wanted to have a better race than I did last time,” Franklin said. “I was in a better state of mind today.”

“I think her confidence is really high right now,” Tush added. “She’s seen some success, and she’s been training hard. Right now, she’s coming around and peaking at the right time. Everything’s starting to click.”

NU’s top-four runners all clocked better times than at the Griak Invitational. Freshman Alison King was 60th in 23:20, a 23-second drop. Junior Mallory O’Niel was 63rd in 23:31, a 22-second improvement. Forman improved 17 seconds from her time at Griak.

However, the rest of NU’s nine-member squad couldn’t match the performances of the top four. Brown, who led the team at Griak, saw her time rise more than a minute. Sophomore Marie Grabinski, who led the Cats at last year’s Big Ten Championships, failed to score, coming in sixth on the team with a time of 24:32.

The Cats finished the race with 294 points, 36 behind 10th-place Penn State. No. 3 Michigan won with 42 points. The Wolverines put three runners in the top eight, led by sophomore Alyson Kohlmeier’s second-place finish.

Illinois junior Cassie Hunt won the individual title, helping the No. 6 team in the nation to second place. No. 11 Minnesota was third with 82 points.

With five of the top-30 teams in the nation racing, the competition was fierce. For Franklin, running in such a big race was an exciting experience. But with the meet over and the Cats looking ahead to the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Nov. 12, she sees room for improvement.

“We have to run more as a team,” Franklin said. “We have the potential to run more as a pack and we need to do that.”

Reach Andrew Simon at [email protected]