Cross Country: Northwestern makes mid-distance statement at Blue Demon Alumni Classic


Courtesy of Megan Slamkowski

Sophomore Anna Hightower maintains her pace up an incline in a cross country meet. The Netherlands native won the 800-meter and earned a top-five mile finish at the Blue Demon Alumni Classic on Friday.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Following a dominant showing in its season opener at the Bob Eubanks Open, Northwestern looked to carry that momentum into the Blue Demon Alumni Classic Friday. While the Wildcats had not faced an NCAA Division 1 opponent in the young indoor track season, their spikes seldom stepped back in a successful showing among Chicago’s elite.

NU put on a mid-distance clinic in the Bob Eubanks Open, winning the mile and 3,000-meter run. The Cats’ afternoon quest commenced as the gun sounded for the mile. Graduate student Rachel McCardell, who coasted to a 15-second margin of victory last week in the 3,000-meter, set the Dr. Conrad Worrill Track & Field Center ablaze, shattering the facility record in a 4:40.76 first-place finish. The Michigan native blew the field away, with the runner-up reaching the finish line 15 seconds later.

Sophomore Anna Hightower joined McCardell in the top five, opening her afternoon with a fifth place 4:59.55 mile. Three seconds later, graduate student Olivia Verbeke joined her teammates across the finish line with a seventh place finish.

Nearly an hour and a half later, Hightower returned to the start line as she prepared to compete in the 800-meter run. The shortest of mid-distance events, the race requires a rare combination of speed and endurance that most runners do not possess.

The Dutch distance runner showed no sign of fatigue and led the event from the front, topping the field in 2:16.93. Despite already having competed in the mile and not running a competitive 800 since the spring outdoor track season, Hightower bested the next finisher by nearly seven seconds.

Nine NU runners waited for the team’s final event of the evening: the 3,000-meter run. While McCardell paced the Allendale event, the Cats relied on other talent on Friday. DePaul’s All-American senior Olivia Borowiak opened a gap that no runner could close, winning the event on the back of a 9:43.50 finish. Junior Katherine Hessler, who won last week’s mile, followed behind in second at 9:59.41.

Senior Kalea Bartolotto rounded off the top three, crossing the line within a second of Hessler at 9:59.63. NU placed two more runners in the top 10,while four others earned top 20 finishes.

After showcasing its speed and strength in Chicago, Coach Jill Miller’s squad returned to campus in preparation for the UW Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The Cats look to make their mark out west, where Washington’s meet typically draws in several national powerhouse programs. 

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