Cross Country: Wildcats combine youth and experience

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

After winning the Badger Season-Opener and placing fourth at the Dartmouth Invitational, Northwestern is gearing up for a meet that presents its first opportunity to win an at-large point toward the NCAA Championship.

The Notre Dame Adidas Invitational on Friday, Oct. 4, takes place on the second weekend when teams can potentially score an at-large point for the national championship. The Wildcats are bringing their top 15 runners to compete.

Coach April Likhite said the meet will present very serious competition, but her team is well prepared. At the Badger Season-Opener at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Cats won overall as a team, and senior Michelle Moriset won as an individual. The Cats placed fourth out of seven teams at their second meet at Dartmouth.

“We knew Georgetown was a top-ten team, so they were going to be untouchable for us at this point,” Likhite said of NU’s competition at Dartmouth. “We were hoping to be a lot more competitive with Dartmouth and Syracuse. Syracuse now is not ranked, but it is getting votes. That is where we’re hoping to be in the next couple weeks.”

Moriset was NU’s first runner to finish at the Dartmouth Invitational, clocking in at 11th with a time of 21 minutes and 23.9 seconds for the 6K course. She was named Women’s Cross Country Big Ten Athlete of the Week on Sept. 10 for her accomplishments so far this season.

“She needs to be going out with the leaders and seeing how long she can hang on,” Likhite said. “She is in a fantastic place right now. She has never come into a season more prepared.”

Freshman Andrea Ostenso has also proven her talent this year by being NU’s second finisher at both meets. She finished second at the Badger Season-Opener and 18th at the Dartmouth Invitational with a time of 21 minutes and 38 seconds.

“What is exciting about her is she comes from a program and a conference and pretty much a whole region where she was never pushed until the very end,” Likhite said.

Likhite said all of the freshmen are talented. She expects the majority of them to have an impactful presence on the team’s top twelve spots this season.

The experienced seniors are just as dynamic as the talented freshmen this year. The team has six returning seniors who have been on the team since freshman year. Likhite said she has never before seen a class grow so much in four years as the class of 2014 has. She and the rest of the team are counting on the seniors’ persistent guidance through the end of the season.

“Not only will we see them compete hard to be with us at the end of the season, but what we are really looking for from them is continued leadership,” said Likhite. “It is about finding that balance of them being really committed to themselves as individuals but also fostering the chemistry and the team dynamics that we feel has made our program successful over the last couple of years.”

The Cats will showcase their preparation and talent next week at Notre Dame and will continue to do so throughout the season. Their main goal overall is to expand their accomplishments from last season.

“We should have been better than seventh at the Big Ten Championships,” Coach Likhite said. “I think we have the ability to be a top-5 team at Big Tens. Regionally, we’re going to have to tap into the top three.”

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