Cross Country: Despite injuries, Cats reach goals as they approach Big Tens

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

Cross Country

Without their star runner on the course, the Wildcats still managed to accomplish their goal of placing in the top half of 35 teams Saturday at the Pre-Nationals Invitational at the University of Louisville.

According to coach ’A Havahla Haynes, junior Jena Pianin, who paced the Cats in two of the three races she ran this fall, will not be competing for the rest of the season because of a stress reaction injury in her shin.

Even in Pianin’s absence, Northwestern’s younger athletes were able to step up and fill the gap to bring NU to a 17th-place finish. The team was led by seniors Elena Barham and Rachel Weathered, who both finished in the top 40 out of 237 runners and clocked 21 minutes, 37.1 seconds and 21 minutes, 41.5 seconds, respectively, for the 6-kilometer course. Sophomore Sara Coffey and freshmen Hannah Anderson and Mary Orders rounded out the top five.

“Elena and Rachel did a great job being the top women,” Haynes said. “They went out with what was a fairly quick pace and managed to maintain that 30th or 40th position that we talked about. And Sara Coffey ran one of the best races she’s run for Northwestern cross country.”

Like Pianin, senior Camille Blackman was also unable to race in Louisville due to injury. Haynes said Blackman’s hamstring soreness was minor, and she should be back in competition for the Big Ten Championships, which the Cats will host on Nov. 1 at the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago.

With two key players missing from competition on Saturday, Anderson and Orders got the chance to step up and fight to score points for the team.

“They’re strong runners,” said Weathered, whose performance on Saturday was a personal best for the 6K. “They’re competitive and they’ve adapted well to this program really fast. You often see freshmen take time to adapt well to the training, but they’re taking it really well.”

For Weathered, she said it’s nice to have a wide range of ages competing as the top NU runners this season. But of course in the absence of a star runner and leader on the team, the women are focusing on building morale and keeping everyone else healthy as they approach the Big Ten Championships in just under two weeks.

The Cats were able to accomplish their goal of finishing in the top half at Pre-Nationals, and they expect to accomplish their goal of finishing in the top ten at Big Tens. With their top runner or without her, the Cats’ dreams for the season have not been compromised.

“We are doing the same and moving past it,” Haynes said. “Without having Jena you lose one of your top scorers, but someone definitely has to step up and help maintain what our goals are.”

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