Cross Country: Cats look to continue strong start at Joe Piane Invitational


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Elizabeth Bulat runs in the Loyola Lakefront Invite in 2019.

Charlotte Varnes, Development and Recruitment Editor

Looking to build on its strongest start since coach Jill Miller joined the program in 2019, Northwestern cross country will travel to South Bend, Ind. Friday for the Joe Piane Invitational.

The Wildcats face daunting competition in the Hoosier State. They’ll run against four of the country’s top ten cross country teams – Alabama, North Carolina State, Minnesota and Washington. NU, currently ranked fifth in the Midwest, will also compete against Illinois and Minnesota, the two Big Ten teams ranked ahead of it in the region. 

The Cats have dominated their slate so far, kicking off the season with a second-place finish at the Hawkeye Invitational on Sept. 3 and a victory at the Redbird Invite on Sept. 17. It’s a significant change from NU’s start in 2019, when it finished third of four teams in its first race and fifth of eight in their second. 

However, the Cats have only competed against one conference foe this season – Iowa, who they defeated by a solid 21 points. NU’s performance in the Joe Piane Invitational will be a strong indicator of where it stands in the Big Ten, as four other conference programs join it in South Bend.

The Cats will rely on senior Rachel McCardell and junior Kalea Bartolotto, the team’s top two runners, to cross the finish line early and keep the team’s points total low. McCardell delivered two strong performances for NU this season, winning both of her races so far. She was also recently named Big Ten Athlete of the Week following her strong performance at the Redbird Invite on Sept. 17. Bartolotto has been key for the Cats as well, finishing third and eighth overall in her first two races of the season. 

Behind Bartolotto and McCardell, NU has several strong underclassmen making their mark. Freshman Abbie Draheim scored for the team in her first two meets with the Cats, and freshmen Amanda Mosborg and Anna Hightower have each scored in one competition. Graduate transfer student Lotte Van der Pol also added valuable points during her first race for NU at the Redbird Invite. 

The Cats are in their third year under Miller’s leadership — a period significantly defined by COVID-19. The 2021 season is Miller’s first opportunity to coach a normal, full-length season since 2019. The rest of the season, including the Joe Piane Invitational, will pose a significant test for the squad and set the stage for showing out against Big Ten competition.

Correction: A previous version of the article had a caption misidentifying junior Elizabeth Bulat as junior Kalea Bartolotto. The Daily regrets the error. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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