Cross Country: Northwestern “hungry for more” after strong effort at NCAA Regionals


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Kayla Byrne runs in a crowded pack of athletes. The freshman finished her 6k Friday with a time of 22:53.7.

John Riker, Reporter

Cross Country

Entering Friday, Northwestern’s path to nationals was going to be a difficult one. The Wildcats needed to finish in one of the top two spots among a 33-team field at NCAA Regionals.

Though NU finished 13th and failed to qualify, their performance on the challenging Stillwater, Oklahoma course closed their cross country season on a high note, coach Jill Miller said as she highlighted NU’s execution from start to finish.

“They ran a very solid race in terms of putting themselves in good position and fighting,” Miller said. “If you look over the last two kilometers, we were able to pick up two spots and pick up Nebraska, who beat us pretty easily at the Big Ten championship. The effort level was great.”

The Cats had little momentum in their favor coming into the meet. On Nov. 3, NU finished 13th out of 14 teams at the Big Ten Championships as the Cats were doomed by a dismal start and downed by top-notch competition.

Two weeks later, NU placed 13th once again, but this time the result was a positive one. Sophomore Rachel McCardell rebounded from a disappointing Big Ten performance to place 36th in 21:39.6, while seniors Sarah Nicholson and Kelly O’Brien rounded out the team’s top three. Nicholson, in her final cross country race for the Cats, placed 56th in 22:01.3, and O’Brien was close behind in 70th in 22:10.9.

The Cats hope that the strong performance will provide momentum heading into the winter and spring competitive seasons. NU plans to return to competition in January with the Gene Edmonds Invitational, though the team’s long-term goals remain oriented toward next cross country season.

“We felt proud of the effort but hungry for more,” Miller said. “Looking at the future and the training, they’re ready to train at a higher level and commit to the sport both inside and outside of practice. We finished the season with some great momentum that will carry into the indoor and outdoor seasons, but it’s how we approach our training through June. I’m excited to do that.”

The meet concluded Miller’s first season at the helm for NU. The year also marked a major youth movement as three of the Cats’ first six finishers at NCAA Regionals were freshmen.

Miller said both she and the team learned a lot over the course of the season, including what it will take to mold the Cats into contenders.

“Certainly it’s not easy taking over a new program, learning the personalities and the current culture and figuring out how to transition to one that is more elite inside and outside of practice,” Miller said. “I’m proud of the conversations that are happening, but it’s going to have to stick in with action over the next sixth months so we can solidify a great place to start training in June.”

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