Wildcats spring into tougher competition

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

It is going to be an important weekend for the Wildcats as they begin to transition to bigger, more competitive meets that present opportunities to score at-large points toward the national championship.

Northwestern will compete Friday in the blue race for the second time at the Notre Dame Adidas Invitational. The blue race is the faster of two women’s varsity races at the meet. The Cats will run against several highly ranked teams, as well as a couple of other Big Ten schools.

“It’s our first big meet opportunity,” coach April Likhite said. “There is a lot of energy and excitement that the girls will see, and hopefully being in that type of environment will bring out the best in them.”

Last year the Cats placed sixth overall out of 18 teams in the blue race. This year, which Likhite said will be much more competitive, the team’s goal is simply to score as well as possible.

“Right now we just need to make sure that we have five girls that really work well together from the very beginning of the race,” Likhite said. “I think we have got about seven girls who are capable of doing it, so it is going to be important that we execute that.”

Sophomore Elena Barham  is one of the top-five runners whom Likhite is counting on. Last year Barham was NU’s sixth finisher, crossing the finish line in 17 minutes, 49 seconds for the 5K course. This weekend, with another year of experience under her belt, Barham has a clear objective and plans on doing a few things differently.

“I want to help the team do what we need to do in order to make NCAAs,” Barham said. “My main goal is just beating as many runners on other teams as I can.”

Barham said she faced some difficulty last year in the first 200 meters of the race. There is a sharp turn at the beginning of the course, so Barham got trapped in the mass of runners rounding the corner. This year, she said she has practiced what she needs to do to avoid the traffic.

“We ran a workout last week where we ran really, really hard for the first 200 meters of every kilometer,” Barham said. “We focused on really crushing it right away and then settling into a pace after that. I feel like that is going to be something that is really helpful to have already practiced.”

It is still early in the season for the Cats, so this weekend will be a great opportunity for them to make an impression and gauge where they stand among some of the best teams in the country.

“It’s a really cool meet,” said Barham, “so I’m excited to be going back.”

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