Cross Country: Dynamic sophomore duo paces Wildcats at season-ending regional meet

Max Schuman, Reporter

Cross Country

Sophomores Andrea Ostenso and Jena Pianin led Northwestern’s effort and took top-20 finishes individually as NU took 11th as a team in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Friday.

The Cats entered the meet, hosted by Bradley in Peoria, ranked 12th out of 32 teams entered, but impressive showings from their team leaders gave them the chance to top their seeding.

Ostenso finished 15th individually in 20:41.9, a 6K personal-best time, while Pianin finished right after her teammate in 16th with a time of 20:43.3.

“For them to be sophomores and have the big goals they’ve had all season and walk away with All-Region honors, it’s really impressive,” coach April Likhite said.

Ostenso got off to a fast start in the race, finding herself as high as 10th in the middle of the race and rode that start to a new personal record.

“We both wanted to get out fast so we wouldn’t have to get around people,” Ostenso said. “It was exciting knowing we were right where we were supposed to be.”

Ostenso and her training partner Pianin stuck together throughout the race to maintain that initial pace and push themselves both to All-Midwest Region honors. It’s the third time in four years that two NU runners have claimed those honors.

“We’re just so used to running together, and we trust each other to keep up the pace,” Ostenso said.

Junior Elena Barham finished 87th in 21:36.5. Fellow junior Camille Blackman finished 107th in 21:50.7, and freshman Isabel Seidel rounded out the scorers for the Cats with a 142nd-place finish in 22:15.7.

This was the final meet of the season for NU. Iowa State and Minnesota claimed the top two spots in the team rankings at the meet to qualify automatically for the NCAA National Championships. The Cats were not given an at-large bid to Nationals as a team. In addition, none of the team’s runners claimed individual invitations by finishing as one of the top four individuals not on an automatically-qualifying team despite the strong showings from Ostenso and Pianin.

“It just speaks to the depth of individual talent in our region,” Likhite said. “A lot of years finishing 15th or 16th would be good enough to move forward, but that just wasn’t the case this year.”

Although the cross country season is over, Ostenso plans to use her strong performance as momentum going into the spring’s track season.

“It’s motivating to know that we’re right up there,” she said, “that what we’re doing is working.”

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