Cross Country: Northwestern disappointed with 12th-place finish in South Bend

Max Schuman, Reporter

Against a highly competitive and diverse field of teams from around the nation, Northwestern secured a 12th-place finish with 330 points in Friday’s Notre Dame Invitational.

The Wildcats competed in the Blue Division against 19 other teams and matched their 12th-place showing in the event from a year ago.

“It was a somewhat disappointing team finish,” coach April Likhite said. “I think we had a couple girls perform really, really well. We’re going to learn from it and I’m excited for the next opportunity.”

The key to the performance was the growth of team leaders and sophomores Jena Pianin and Andrea Ostenso during the last year. Pianin blasted past her time from last year’s Notre Dame Invitational to take 20th individually with a time of 16:45.9, far better than her 18:12 from the year before on the same 5K course.

Pianin attributed her improvement to her work and preparation in the offseason.

“Last fall I was coming off a stress fracture in my shin, which limited my ability to be in shape for the season,” she said. “Now I feel really prepared to take on new goals. I feel like a whole new runner starting this year.”

Similarly, Ostenso dropped her time significantly to 16:50.7, good for 27th individually, after running 17:46.4 as a freshman at this event. The two sophomores paced the Cats with first- and second-place finishes among NU runners at the meet.

Their coach was unsurprised by their performance. “(Pianin and Ostenso have) grown a lot over the last year. I think even from the cross country to the track season they started adapting to our program,” Likhite said. “They come to practice every day motivated by their goals, and that’s what you have to do in this sport.”

Junior Elena Barham, freshman Isabel Seidel and junior Camille Blackman rounded out the top five runners for the Cats at the meet. Barham ran a personal-best in a 5K at 17:28.6, good for 93rd. Seidel finished in 17:30.5 and Blackman ran the race in 17:37.8.

“We’re pretty happy with the performance, but we came in with some higher expectations,” Pianin commented. “We have some major places for improvement. We’re working on improving our sense of where we are in the race and racing our competition aggressively.”

“We weren’t aggressive enough three through eight, and I think a couple of those girls really think they could have moved up midway through the race,” Likhite said. “Physically, we’re there. We need to be stronger in the mind right now.”

“We had a good talk on the bus ride back and we’re going to go into the next meet looking to improve.”

The Cats are back in action this week at the Lucian Rosa Invitational before shifting focus to the Pre-Nationals Invite in Terre Haute, Indiana.

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