Cross Country: Cats look to hit “reset button” at Penn State National Open and prepare for Big Ten Championships


Photo courtesy of Mary Kate Schoonover

Junior Kalea Bartolotto runs at the Joe Piane Invitational. Bartolotto has consistently finished second among the team this season.

Kate Walter, Reporter

Northwestern cross country will compete at the Penn State National Open Friday, looking to rebound after finishing 24th out of 25 teams at the Oct. 1 Joe Piane Invitational. 

The Wildcats will face a challenging field in State College, including fellow Big Ten teams No. 8 Michigan, Maryland, Rutgers and host Penn State — who received votes in the most recent Coaches’ Poll. Other competition includes Georgia Tech and Syracuse, both of whom also received votes in the Poll.

Coach Jill Miller said the upcoming race in State College is a chance to improve upon the team’s tough showing in South Bend, which she called an “outlier.” 

“The outing at Notre Dame was not what we wanted it to be,” Miller said. “This is a great opportunity to hit that reset button to make sure we understand what our goals should be for the Big Ten Championship.”

The Cats started the season strong, coming in second at the Hawkeye Invitational and ISU Redbird Invitational. Following its performance in South Bend, NU moved down from No. 5 to No. 7 in the Midwest region. 

Senior Rachel McCardell earned great success this season after placing first in two races and receiving Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors following her performance at the Redbird Invitational. She finished 13th at the Joe Piane Invitational among nearly 200 competitors.

McCardell said the next race will be an important learning experience for the Cats ahead of the Big Ten Championship. That meet will be located on the same course on Oct. 29 and will provide the team a better idea of what to expect then.

Junior Kalea Bartolotto said the upcoming meet is an opportunity for NU to recover from its performance in South Bend and prepare for the Big Ten Championship. 

“We’re looking to get our feet back underneath us, to build confidence and really just go out there to be tough on a hard course and learn what the course is like so we’re able to come back and run even better in two weeks,” Bartolotto said. 

Bartolotto is lined up to play an important role for NU on Friday. She has consistently been the team’s number two runner this season and has several top 10 performances under her belt, including finishing eighth at the Hawkeye Invitational and third at the Redbird Invite. 

Both runners said Friday’s course, located on Penn State Blue and White Golf Courses, will be challenging, with McCardell describing it as “incredibly tactical, very hilly.” Because of the lack of hills around Evanston, the Cats have made some trips to Kenosha, Wisc. to gain experience with hilly terrain. Bartolotto believes this practice boosted the team’s confidence and readiness ahead of competing at Penn State. 

Behind McCardell and Bartolotto, graduate student Lotte Van der Pol, freshman Abbie Draheim and freshman Amanda Mosborg will likely contribute to the Cats’ scoring as well.

Miller said she’s grateful the team will compete again on Friday, and hopes their commitment will show in the result. 

“They’ve come a really long way and I’m really proud of their growth,” Miller said of the team. “So I couldn’t be more excited just to get back out there on Friday.”   

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