Cross Country: Northwestern sets best foot forward at UW Invitational


Photo Courtesy of Megan Slamkowski

Sophomores Anna Hightower and Ava Earl approach the finish line at a cross country meet. The second-year duo ran the 3000-meter in Seattle.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Five Northwestern runners traveled out west to compete in the UW Invitational Friday and Saturday. The Wildcats, who commanded the track in their previous two meets, took on some of the nation’s top runners in Seattle.

Senior Kalea Bartolotto and graduate student Olivia Verbeke were seeded into a stacked heat in the 5,000-meter run Friday evening. Top-seeded Utah State runner Mica Rivera lived up to lofty expectations, crossing the line at a winning time of 16:24.57. Rivera opened a sizable gap from the rest of the field and defeated Oregon’s Melissa Berry by nine seconds.

While Verbeke did not finish the event, her veteran counterpart ran a personal best. Bartolotto breezed to an eighth place 16:42.70 finish, clocking in at a 5:23 mile pace.

NU went back to work Saturday in the 3,000-meter run. Sophomores Ava Earl and Anna Hightower competed in the event’s fourth heat, while graduate student Rachel McCardell ran against the event’s top group in Heat Five.

The event favorite and Utah star Emily Venters outpaced Washington’s Sophie O’Sullivan for the winning time of 9:00.95. McCardell, who ran at the past two NCAA National Championships, is no stranger to prolific opponents and finished eighth against a lightning-fast field. The face of the Cats’ cross country program held her own and then some, picking up a 9:17.64 personal best.

Earl, who did not compete in the Blue Demon Alumni Classic on Jan. 20, showed no signs of rust. The Alaska native placed third in Heat Four and 11th overall. She set a personal best time, crossing the finish at 9:27.44. Hightower joined her 17 seconds later, placing 12th in the group and 34th overall.

The indoor track season continues Friday in South Bend, Indiana. NU will compete at Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational, where coach Jill Miller’s squad is set to take on some of the Midwest’s top collegiate runners.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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