Cross Country: Wildcats disappoint in Wisconsin, attempt to regroup

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

The freshmen on the Wildcats’ roster are talented, but they can’t carry the team.

The Cats were disappointed Saturday when they placed 34th of 37 teams at the prestigious Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison. Senior Libby Kocha was Northwestern’s first runner across the finish line, placing 135th in the field of 288 runners and clocking a time of 21 minutes and 20 seconds for the 6K course. NU’s next three finishers were all freshmen.

Although Kocha was excited because her 6K time on Saturday was a personal record, she said the Cats could have run better as a unit.

“The team is disappointed as a whole about where we placed because we are definitely better than some of the teams that beat us,” Kocha said. “But everyone gave it their best shot.”

Coach April Likhite said the meet did not go the way she had planned. Kocha was the only runner who finished in the position Likhite had expected. Injured upperclassmen have forced the Cats to rely heavily on their freshmen. Although the freshmen on the team are fast and talented, they lack the experience that they need at this competitive point in the season.

“We’re just really young right now,” Likhite said. “The good thing is that our freshmen realize, even though they were second, third and fourth, despite where they finish for the team they need to finish further up in the race. That’s a valuable lesson they took from it.”

With senior Michelle Moriset and some other runners still out of commission, the Cats will need to find replacements to race in the Big Ten Championships at Purdue in two weeks. Likhite said she is reevaluating where she hopes the team will finish, which will depend largely on who is chosen to compete that day.

This Friday at the Illini Open in Champaign, NU’s reserve squad will get the opportunity to race. Likhite is looking out for runners who perform particularly well this weekend and will consider including them on her Big Ten Championships team.

“We haven’t totally finalized who those girls are going to be,” Likhite said. “What we need are girls that can race under pressure and race well. We’ve got a group of them going into this meet Friday with that mindset.”

Sophomore Jessie Baloga is one of the contenders for a spot on the Cats’ Big Ten squad. Baloga thinks she has a good chance of making the team and feels ready to race Friday.

“I think I just have to run a really aggressive race,” Baloga said. “Our coach is looking for runners who can really follow the plan and attack the race and just go above and beyond what she expects.”

Attitudes like Baloga’s are what will help the underclassmen overcome their inexperience. Kocha said she has faith in the younger runners. Despite all the injuries, she thinks her team can push through and succeed in its last few meets.

Likhite is doing what she can to make sure she has the most prepared team possible.

“You never know what can happen the day of the championship,” she said. “Right now we’re just trying to regroup going into the next couple of weeks, tweaking some of our workouts, hoping we can get their bodies to a good place so that we can walk away with a good Big Ten Championship.”

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