Cross Country: Northwestern aims for progress at NCAA Pre Nationals


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Amanda Davis runs in a race. The junior runner participated at the Loyola Lakefront Invite.

John Riker, Reporter

Following a three-week break from racing, Northwestern is gearing up to take major steps forward at the NCAA Pre Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind.

With All-American Aubrey Roberts absent, the Wildcats have struggled out of the gate this fall, most recently placing 11th out of 12 teams in the Buckeye Preview. Coach Jill Miller said she encouraged her team to move on from the string of disappointing performances and shift its focus to capitalizing on the three week gap between the Big Ten Preview and NCAA Pre Nationals.

“I’m really thankful for that three-week hiatus to get back to some heavy training that I feel that some people missed over the summer,” Miller said. “We hit it hard the last two weeks and came down the last week. The goal would be to translate to the cross country course this Saturday.”

NU’s training schedule mixed intense workouts, tempo efforts and constructive long distance runs, with the intent of building the team’s confidence and competitive edge for the meets ahead.

“I’ve been really impressed with the amount of focus that our team has given in the last three weeks and the level of commitment we’ve given with each other,” senior Sarah Nicholson said. “It’s going to be really important to stick with our race pack and commit to working together because that’s going to help us push through those tough parts of the race.”

NCAA Pre Nationals will be a more-than-adequate measuring stick for the Cats’ progress. The meet is among the most competitive in the countr,y and the sheer quantity of runners, which Miller expects to be between 200 to 300 per race, will present a new wrinkle for NU.

The Cats also don’t know who their competition will be — the field will be divided into “Blue” and “White” races. And yet, NU is confident in its ability to perform in a championship environment.

“We’re pumped,” sophomore Rachel McCardell said. “A lot of people get nervous, and yes, of course we’re nervous, but more than the nerves, we’re just excited to get on the course and show people that our last performance is not our best performance and that we’re capable of a lot more.”

Miller said progress will be measured in more than place and time. NCAA Pre-Nationals will test the team’s mental fortitude and composure, giving NU a prime opportunity to establish who they are as a team.

“I’ve got a lot of really good people in the locker room,” Miller said. “We’re trying to define ourselves as competitors, and that’s the challenge moving forward. I think we are still yet to find our identity as a team when we’re out on the cross country course racing, but that’s starting to come together.”

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