Cross Country: Sophomore earns Big Ten honors, Wildcats take first

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

The Wildcats expected to win. And they did just that.

Northwestern won first place of 25 teams Saturday at the Lucian Rosa Invitational at University of Wisconsin Parkside. The Cats’ top finisher was awarded Big Ten Cross Country Runner of the Week honors for her performance at the meet.

Sophomore Elena Barham finished first for the Cats with a 5K time of 18 minutes and 3 seconds, placing seventh overall out of 294 runners. She was named Runner of the Week on Tuesday, becoming the second member of her team this season to receive the accolade.

“I’m totally honored,” Barham said. “Michelle (Moriset), who is a senior on the team, got the award earlier in the season, so it was kind of on my radar. But it wasn’t something that I thought, ‘If I run well, I can be runner of the week.’  That wasn’t even a thought that crossed my mind.”

Coach April Likhite said she was very pleased with Barham’s race, as well as the team’s performance overall. Freshman Elena Miller finished right behind Barham with a time of 18 minutes and 11 seconds, taking eighth place. The next three NU runners all finished in the top 20. Likhite said the meet was a nice confidence boost, not only for the team but also for individual runners who were able to get more racing experience.

Many of the NU runners had run the course three weeks earlier, so they had the opportunity to see how much they improved. Likhite challenged each of them to run 15 seconds faster than they had previously. She said most of the runners achieved the goal.

“Overall we’re seeing some nice improvements by girls,” Likhite said. “I think workouts have been really, really solid. It just hasn’t shown up in races, so that’s what was exciting about this race.”

Unfortunately, two key members of the team, senior Michelle Moriset and sophomore Camille Blackman, are suffering from injuries that prevent them from competing. Moriset, the first NU runner to receive the Runner of the Week award earlier in the season for placing first at the Badger Season Opener, now has a serious foot sprain. The injury happened in the weight room, and Likhite said it will prevent Moriset from competing until at least the Big Ten Championships.

“Michelle and Cami are both amazing runners, and they bring a ton to the team,” Barham said. “We’re trying hard to stay positive and stay upbeat. We can still run well, even though they can’t contribute as much as they would like to.”

The Cats will return to America’s Dairyland this weekend for the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison. The team is bringing nine runners to compete on the 6K course. Likhite expects very intense competition but says she looks forward to yet another opportunity to beat a team that might have a shot at going to nationals.

If NU races better than one of the national championship-bound squads, the Cats score a point that aids their own advancement to the NCAAs.

“I feel like going into this meet as a team, we don’t have a lot to lose,” Barham said. “We just want to represent ourselves well and hope to just run a solid race.”

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