Cross Country: O’Brien, McCardell leads Wildcats at Benedictine Invitational


(Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer)

Kelly O’Brien runs. The junior won both the 1500 and the 800 at the Benedictine Invitational this weekend.

Sophia Scanlan, Reporter

Cross Country

Northwestern led the pack at the Benedictine Invitational on Saturday in its second meet of the outdoor season.

The Wildcats finished fourth with a total of 62 points, claiming the top four spots in the 1500-meter race, the top three in the 800, and second place in the 400.

The standout performances came from junior Kelly O’Brien, who won both the 1500 and 800 with times of 4:25.64 and 2:16.78 respectively, and freshman Rachel McCardell, who placed in the top three in both events as well.

“It was definitely a bit of a smaller meet than we’ve run in the past, but really cool to be at the front,” McCardell said. “In cross country, normally you’re just fighting for 100th or 150th place, but at this meet, most of the competition was within our reach or around where we were, so it was really nice to run at the front and be competitive in that way.”

Going into both the 800 and 1500, McCardell added that the team knew they’d be towards the top, so the goal was to win heats, keep pace and keep each other in sight.

O’Brien said this strategy was crucial to both her races, especially the 1500.

“The 1500 was a very planned, intentional race with two of my teammates,” she said. “Sarah Nicholson helped me out tremendously with pacing the first 600, and then Aubrey (Roberts) carried me through 800. I felt like I knew what I needed to do, I knew how to do it and I was super pumped up.”

Though she finished the 1500 a second slower than she wanted, O’Brien said she still thought she had a pretty good race.

Coach ‘A Havahla Haynes praised O’Brien’s performance and her improvement.

“(O’Brien) lowered her time from 4:27 a week ago to essentially 4:25, which is huge, and she’s ahead of schedule in terms of where she was last year compared to this year,” she said.

Haynes also said MaryKate Schoonover’s 2:47.57 finish in the 800 was exciting to see, given the freshman’s hard work after dealing with injuries.

Looking ahead, NU will travel to California for the Mount Sac Relays and the Bryan Clay Invitational on April 18 to 20.

“It’s two meets which have tons of sections and heats, so (the goal is) bring the same mentality that we had today to that competition, but also raise the bar on yourself a little bit in terms of what you think you’re capable of in terms of time,” Haynes said.

She added she’s hoping for faster times and more section wins.

O’Brien said these meets are some of her favorites of the season, and she’s looking forward to running them with the team.

“It’s so competitive, and it’s in a great climate, of course,” O’Brien said. “Sometimes you can get a little starstruck with the bigger meets and a lot of competitors from really solid programs and schools, (but) I think we can get the pace down a little bit. It looks really good for the ‘Cats moving forward.”

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