Cross Country: Northwestern plans to “put it all out there” in their possible final race of the season


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Sarah McCoy runs in the race. The sophomore runner will look to lead her team to a successful weekend at NCAA Regionals.

John Riker, Reporter

Cross Country

Northwestern stumbled in the Big Ten Championships, its first race of championship season, but Friday’s NCAA Midwest Regional offers a chance for redemption.

At the conference championships earlier this month, the Wildcats struggled with their positioning and stumbled to a 13th place finish out of 14 teams. With NU’s chance of advancing to Nationals unlikely, Regionals — held in Stillwater, Okla. — will likely be their last test of the season, and their last chance to rid themselves of the sour taste of their Big Ten disappointment.

Senior Sarah Nicholson said the Cats struggled to handle the pressure of the Big Ten Championships. She said composure in their next high-level opportunity is a point of emphasis.

“Last time, a lot of us were pretty nervous going into Big Tens,” Nicholson said. “And so going into regionals, we’re trying to be a little more excited. Everybody’s been constantly improving over the season. I’m really excited to see everyone and their peak performance.”

Coach Jill Miller expects the competition at Regionals will not be as deep as the conference championship, but she added that the size of the field and unrelenting course terrain pose significant challenges for her team. NU is narrowing its focus to what it can bring to the course.

“We talked about today, about making sure we are focusing on what we control,” Miller said. “There’s the course and competition, but also focusing just on the attitude that we bring to competition and also the effort level that we exert out there… Just keep it simple, go in with an engaged, positive attitude and put it all out there.”

The Cats’ young talent has taken center stage this season, with three freshmen finishing in their top eight at the Big Ten Championships.

With such a young team, the experience provided by seniors has come at a premium. Miller credits the team’s senior leadership, Kelly O’Brien and Sarah Nicholson, with guiding NU’s development and stepping up after the team was forced to redshirt All-American Aubrey Roberts.

“They’ve poured in a tremendous amount of work not just this year but for the past three years,” Miller said. “In terms of leadership out on the course they’re learning new ways to do that. I’m really excited to see Kelly O’Brien, who has had a major breakthrough in terms of her racing. Sarah Nicholson is doing a great job of continuing to push forward in her training and bringing energy to every competitive environment. I can’t wait to see both of them compete out there.”

Roberts and O’Brien still have a year of NCAA eligibility remaining, but for Nicholson, Friday will likely be the last time she dons the Northwestern uniform on a cross country course.

“It’s a mix of emotions,” Nicholson said. “I’ll definitely be sad, but the sport has definitely given me a lot. It’s been an honor to race at Northwestern and so to have one more opportunity, I’m really lucky. I’m also fortunate to have such great teammates, all four years and so being able to compete with them one more time is really special.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @thejohnriker