Cross Country: Freshman seizes day, takes the lead

Most people wouldn’t expect a freshman to both finish first on her team and break a personal record on a hot afternoon on a muddy cross country course.

Andrea Ostenso accomplished both of these feats Friday afternoon at the Notre Dame Adidas Invitational. She finished 33rd of 198 runners in her race and clocked a new personal record of 17 minutes and 46 seconds for the 5K course, averaging 5 minutes and 43 seconds per mile. Of 24 teams overall, Northwestern placed 12th, just ahead of Ohio State.

Although coach April Likhite said she was disappointed with the Cats’ finish overall, she said workouts are going very well, and the team will learn from its experiences and move forward. She said she was very pleased with Ostenso’s performance.

“I thought she ran a great race for such a big meet,” Likhite said. “Overall she was the fourth freshman. … She fought hard all the way.”

There is a one-hour time difference between Evanston and South Bend, a change that Ostenso had not anticipated. In trying to stay hydrated before her race, she realized she drank too much and had an hour less to digest. Not only did she push through some mud and a stomachache, but she also was met with some physical contact during the race because of the nature of the course.

“We knew within 100 to 200 meters there would be a sharp turn to the right,” Ostenso said about the start of the race. “During that first curve, a pack of about 10 girls fell right next to me because there was a lot of throwing elbows. I was really lucky that I didn’t fall, too.”

Ostenso stayed focused and moved forward, finding her pace and keeping her eyes on the runners ahead of her, but one thing was different about the competitors she was chasing. Senior Michelle Moriset, who usually finishes first for the Cats, was absent during the race due to injury.

“It’s easier to run when you’re with someone you know,” Ostenso said. “I always see Michelle in front of me, and it motivates me to go faster.”

Although she said she felt bad her teammate couldn’t race, Ostenso adjusted well to being the top runner for the Cats that day. She has proven her ability to adjust to a lot of changes so far in her running career. She said her high school training regimen was very relaxed. Since upgrading to a much more intense program, she has already seen many improvements, including her personal record at Notre Dame.

She hopes to be healthy for the rest of the season and continue to make a positive impact on her team. Ostenso will not compete at the Cats’ next meet Oct. 12, the Lucian Rosa Invitational in Wisconsin, because she and some of the other top runners are saving their legs for the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational the following weekend.

Likhite said four of the top runners who have secured their spot on the team for the Big Ten Championship will rest this weekend. As for the rest of Cats, the meet will provide an opportunity for more racing experience and a chance to improve.

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