Cross Country: Experience laden Wildcats ready to make noise at Big Ten Champsionships

John Paschall, Reporter

Coach April Likhite is taking a different approach to this year’s Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Mich., and she is putting her energy toward getting pumped for the event rather than stressing out because of it.

“We are focusing more on the excitement of it instead of thinking ‘Oh my god, we need to do this,’” Likhite said. “That doesn’t work well for us. They don’t respond well when things are chaotic.”

Even senior Audrey Huth has noticed a difference in Likhite’s approach this year.

“Every year she gets to be a little more relaxed,” Huth said. “She’s able to really let the leaders and seniors on the team take over the little things that she used to have to look out for.”

To say the Northwestern team heading this weekend to East Lansing is experienced would be a major understatement. The Wildcats’ top four includes the senior Huth; two juniors, Michelle Moriset and Lexie Goldsmith; and a redshirt senior, Sophie Ewald.

The level of seniority NU brings has made their preparation so much easier.

“We have a lot more experience this year,” Huth said. “We’re also a lot faster coming in. We have beat some teams that we haven’t before which is always exciting.”

Running fast is something that Huth exemplified at the Big Ten Championships. She has shed times every year at the race by dramatic margins, improving by one minute and 19 seconds in her sophomore year and by 14 seconds in her junior year. She will try not to let the moment of her last Big Ten Championship get to her and admitted it was a little strange to think about.

“It’s definitely weird,” Huth said. “I’ve tried not to think about the fact that it is my last one. But I’m excited and ready to leave everything on the course. My parents and a couple of the girls on the team have already told me that no matter what it’s going to be such a great day.”

While Huth will likely lead the NU pack, it is the runners behind her that will make or break the Cats’ chances of landing in the top five. The next three – Moriset, Goldsmith and Ewald – expect to post strong times and should finish relatively close to each other. But after those upperclassmen, Likhite hopes runners five through nine can finish together.

“Our fifth place person has changed so much this year for all different reasons,” Likhite said. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth could finish together if they all run their best. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”

NU has not forgotten about its close loss to in-state foe Illinois at the Notre Dame Invitational. Moriset said the Cats are aiming to beat the Fighting Illini this weekend.

“We really want to get Illinois at Big Tens,” Moriset said. “We just have to keep in mind how bad that felt when they beat us and use it as fuel for Big Tens.”