Cross Country: Northwestern hoping to improve at Notre Dame Invitational

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

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As they head to the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Indiana on Friday, the Wildcats are aware they are experiencing growing pains.

Though head coach ’A Havahla Haynes  is a seasoned, talented coach, having led the University of New Mexico’s team to a third-place finish at the 2014 NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country Championships, she said being the head coach at a place where she was an assistant for two years is always a transition.

“In terms of them understanding what we’re trying to accomplish, understanding that we need to be healthy and injury-free, that’s going well,” Haynes said. “But I wouldn’t call myself happy. I’d say we’ve done a great job communicating; I wouldn’t say we’ve done a great job performing.”

Junior Jena Pianin said working with a new coach halfway through her college career is a bit of a shakeup, though she said confidence and trust in her new coach is building.

“Coach Hav has been great and I think she’ll take me to where I want to be as an athlete,” Pianin said. “I’m really excited to work with her, get to know her, really trust her training and let it work its magic.”

Pianin, who has consistently been NU’s top runner this season, paced the Cats at last year’s race in South Bend and posted her season-best time at the 5K course.

With a veteran squad on the line, the Cats are hoping to show they are racing faster and stronger as they approach the Big Ten Championships, which they will host on Nov. 1, at the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course on Chicago’s north side. Freshmen Hannah Anderson and Mary Orders, who both finished in the top-five for the Cats in last weekend’s Roy Griak Invitational, will not be competing this weekend.

However, Haynes has her eyes set on the Big Tens. After a 10th place finish last year, Haynes is looking for better results this year anywhere between seventh and tenth. To reach this goal, Haynes has designed the training schedule so her athletes peak on Nov. 1.

Though the Cats are not in their best shape now and they hopefully won’t be until they step on the line at the Big Tens Friday’s meet at Notre Dame will be a measuring stick to see how close the Cats are to reaching their goal.

“For this weekend, there are a lot of things that I’m looking for,” Haynes said. “I’m looking for women to show up as a group, as a whole unit, and compete for each other and then against every other team out there.”