Cross Country: Wildcats’ up and down roster stepping up as indoor season comes to close

Max Schuman, Reporter

Cross Country

For Northwestern, the track season has been all about opportunities, as NCAA sponsorship for the track season has allowed head coach April Likhite to do more to find the best races for her runners.

That’s only half of the equation, though, and the indoor season has shown the Wildcats are fully ready to seize the opportunities their coach has given them.

“We’ve seen so much progress this year,” sophomore Ellen Schmitz said. “We’re running times that we didn’t run until outdoor season last year.”

NU’s indoor track season will end Saturday with the team’s top runners traveling to South Bend for Notre Dame’s Alex Wilson Invitational. It’s a final chance for NU runners to augment the momentum from their previous performances in the indoor season.

This landmark season for the program has seen stellar team moments, like last week’s Grand Valley State Big Meet, when every athlete competing set a personal record.

Any look at the state of the Cats naturally starts at the top, where sophomores Jena Pianin and Andrea Ostenso have kept rolling after solid cross country seasons. The duo finished second and third, respectively, in the one-mile at Grand Valley State and grabbed top-10 finishes in the 3,000m and 5,000m, respectively, at Notre Dame’s prestigious Meyo Invitational two weeks ago. 

Depth has been a positive for the Cats too, though, as up and down the roster, Likhite has been impressed with her athletes’ showings.

Junior Rachel Weathered has proven her chops in the shorter events of track season and is the only team member other than Pianin and Ostenso to break five minutes in a one-mile or break 10 minutes in a 3,000m this season. Fellow junior Allison Jacobsen also impressed in smashing her previous personal best in last week’s 5,000m race, much to the delight of her coach.

“It was a huge breakthrough for her,” Likhite said. “I would say it’s the best race I’ve seen her run at Northwestern.”

Even newcomers have been swept up in the team’s performance, such as freshman Isabel Seidel, who has been mere seconds from breaking five minutes in the one-mile and 10 minute in the 3,000m this season. Her rapid climb has impressed Likhite.

“It was challenging for her, racing during cross country, but she has some good races under her belt now,” the coach said. “And the confidence is back when she steps to the line.”

With big performances come big expectations, and with roughly a month off between the end of indoor season and the start of outdoor track at the Alabama Relays, Likhite will make sure there’s no drop-off in training in the interim.

According to Schmitz, the excitement and positive returns from the indoor season will make losing focus a non-issue.

“It’s really exciting and really encouraging,” she said. “We know that when we make that jump to outdoor season, we’re going to be in an even better position than now, and we’re already really happy with where we are.”

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