Cross Country: Personal bests drop for Northwestern at Drake Relays with NCAA qualifying date looming


Source: Northwestern Athletics

Northwestern runners compete in the fall cross country season. A trio of Wildcats made strong pushes for NCAA qualifying times at the Drake Relays on Thursday.

Max Schuman, Reporter

Cross Country

With the end of the season approaching quickly, Northwestern sophomores Andrea Ostenso and Jena Pianin and junior Elena Barham had another chance to qualify for the NCAA West regional championships against high-level competition at the prestigious Drake Relays.

And with all three setting personal bests in their races, there isn’t much left for them to do but wait.

Ostenso and Pianin took the line in the 5,000m Thursday and broke out to sixth and 10th-place finishes, respectively, out of 24 entrants. Ostenso’s time of 16:32.36 is good for the 48th-best time in the West region in the event this season, while Pianin’s time of 16:34.22 puts her 60th on the qualifying list.

In the 10,000m, Barham put together a strong race to crack the top-20, finishing 17th in a field of 30 racers. Her time of 36:09.84 gives her the 72nd-best time in the West this outdoor season — another strong performance for the junior in the long 10K race.

“The 10K is a big mental test, you’ve got to really be focused and on track for so long,” she said. “I’ve been trying to treat it as a good way to mentally prepare for cross country.”

With only one meet left on the schedule this season, NU is looking toward May 17, when the field for regionals will be set. Only Ostenso, who also holds the 40th-best time in the West in the 10K this outdoor season, is currently in position to claim top-48 qualifying spots in either event on the team. But with some athletes sure to drop out of competition in each event, Pianin and Barham could climb into qualifying positions.

Wildcats head coach April Likhite is confident that Ostenso will hold on to her qualifying positions as the season winds down, but isn’t certain Pianin will be able to make the climb without a slightly better time in the team’s final meet.

“She’s kind of on-the-fence, it’s a wait-and-see,” she said. “You’d like for her to run a little bit faster just so we aren’t at the beck-and-call of other people.”

Pianin, for one, remains confident she’ll make the grade.

“My goal is obviously to qualify for regionals, and I completely believe in and trust my coaches when they say I can do that,” she said.

Freshman Isabel Seidel competed Saturday at Drake in the 3,000m steeplechase, completing her first race in the event but finishing last in the field of 24 with a time of 11:40.16.

The rest of the team competed Friday at the local Benedictine Twilight Invitational in Lisle, Illinois. Junior Rachel Weathered starred for the team at the meet, winning the 800m in 2:17.33 and taking second in the 1,500m in 4:36.73 after being passed in the final straight.

Even if qualifying luck doesn’t fall in the Cats’ favor, the mere opportunity for that prize at the end of the season is indicative of the growth of the program. Likhite said that she can see it energizing her veteran runners as the season tapers to a close.

“They’re really appreciating the opportunity,” she said. “It just gives us a better way to complete the track season and be really excited going into the cross country season.”

The Cats will close their outdoor track regular season at the Dr. Keeler Invitational, May 7-8.

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