Cross Country: Wildcats struggle, leave Big Ten Championships unsatisfied

John Paschall, Reporter

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Untapped potential can be any team’s biggest regret.

Northwestern found that out the hard way in East Lansing, as the Wildcats ran to a frustrating seventh place finish in the Big Ten Championships.

Though the Cats did improve their team placing from last year’s meet, there was an immense cloud of disappointment hovering over the purple tent after the meet. The preceding week had been filled with giddy and excited runners eager to show the Big Ten they were in the best shape of their lives. But coach April Likhite now knows that they can’t just run good meets anymore. They have to be great.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t run great as a team,” Likhite said. “We had such a great week, and the travel was pretty relaxing. We seemed real excited. But it just didn’t happen today.”

Nobody on the team could quite name the first misstep. The Cats were in good position at the 3K mark with senior Audrey Huth clumped in the middle of the lead pack and junior Michelle Moriset hanging at the rear of that same group. But the home stretch saw some major struggles as Huth and Moriset lost the lead pack and fell behind. After the meet, Huth, a Michigan native, couldn’t put into words what exactly had happened.

“I’m still kind of processing that,” said Huth, who finished 25th overall. “I really couldn’t tell you right now. It’s painful. It hurts.”

In another unusual turn, for the first time since 2010, Huth didn’t finish first for NU. That honor went to another Michigan native: Moriset. The junior, who finished 85th last year in the same event and struggled with back problems throughout last season, took 20th place with an incredible run.

“It was definitely my best race of the season,” Moriset said. “But I am disappointed that I was six places off All-Big Ten. So it was bittersweet.”

With NCAA Regionals only two weeks away, Likhite plans to keep her top runners training  instead of having them race in the Northern Illinois Open. There’s no question the Cats are fit enough to make an impact. Likhite said the changes the squad must make are more mental than physical. Moriset believes the disappointment at the Big Ten Championship will make this group hungry to perform well in Springfield, Mo., at Regionals.

“We are more motivated than ever,” Moriset said. “At a race like this where you don’t do as well as you wanted to, the best thing you can do is to analyze it then move on. We can use it as fire and to fuel up even more because ultimately, Big Tens won’t determine how we do at Regionals. It means we could do better than we did today because we are more motivated to do so.”