Cross Country: Northwestern kicks off indoor track season at Bob Eubanks Open


Photo courtesy of Megan Slamkowski

Three NU runners lead the pack in a cross-country race. The Cats finished 30th in the NCAA Division One Cross Country Championships in November.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Nearly two months removed from its first NCAA Division One Cross Country Championships appearance in over 20 years, Northwestern returned to race action at the Bob Eubanks Open. While the Wildcats moved inside from the fresh air of the rolling cross country hills — where the program soared to new heights this past fall — they picked up right where they left off on the track.

NU entered runners in two separate events: the mile and the 3000-meter run. These distances are far shorter than the standard six-kilometer cross country event and require different skill sets and preparation for success. Gone are the swiftly changing inclines and declines that a challenging cross-country course offers, but with that omission comes an even greater need for speed.

Junior Katherine Hessler won the mile, crossing the finish line in 4:58.23. The Michigan native, competing less than a half-hour from her hometown, was the only runner to break five minutes.

Coming in four seconds behind her, freshman Maddy Whitman earned a third-place finish as she wrapped up her first collegiate indoor track event in 5:02.64. Rounding off the top five, freshman Serena Frolli clocked a 5:08.90 mile. Senior Kayla Fortino ran a 5:20.62 mile, which earned her a thirteenth-place finish.

The Cats coasted to success in the women’s 3000-meter run, sweeping the top five and placing eight top-10 finishers.

Fresh off posting a team-best time in the NCAA Championship, graduate student Rachel McCardell continued to lead from the front. The Michigan native, whom coach Jill Miller heavily relied upon in transforming NU from a Big Ten bottom-dweller to a regional contender, cruised to victory in 9:26.89. McCardell’s blistering pace of 5:04 per mile would have earned her a fifth-place finish in the women’s mile. Sophomores Anna Hightower and Ava Earl followed in second and third with times of 9:41.25 and 9:47.42, respectively. Nine other Wildcats also added top-20 finishes to cap off a dominant event for NU.

After a tune-up meet where the Cats dusted off some track rust, the team heads down south to the Blue Demon/Rambler Invite in Chicago on Friday. NU looks to build on strong individual performances and carry momentum into competition with some of Chicagoland’s top collegiate programs.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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