Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Juniors+Anna+Hightower+and+Ava+Earl+approach+the+finish+line+at+a+cross+country+meet.+Earl+won+the+mile+event+this+weekend.
Photo courtesy of Megan Slamkowski
Juniors Anna Hightower and Ava Earl approach the finish line at a cross country meet. Earl won the mile event this weekend.

Following a two-week hiatus, Northwestern will begin postseason competition at the Big Ten Championships at Wisconsin this Friday. 

The six kilometer race is scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. central time and will take place at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course. Despite expected mild temperatures in the low 60s, race conditions appear rather unfavorable due to forecasted rain showers and 15 mph winds.

The Wildcats return to the Big Ten Championships with high hopes after an impressive fifth-place finish last year, the team’s highest since 1986. This week’s meet serves as a vital first step on the path to a potential return to the NCAA Championships at Virginia next month. 

Unlike last season, the ‘Cats do not enter the Big Ten meet with a top-30 ranking. However, coach Jill Miller’s squad was briefly ranked 29th in the national coaches poll in week one. 

Five of NU’s top six runners competed in the Big Ten Championships last year — a testament to the team’s upperclassmen leadership. 

Last season, the ‘Cats had a solidified group of five scorers right out of the gate, but it’s not as clear cut this year. Sophomore Maddy Whitman and junior Fiona Lenth have traded spots in the top five, though Lenth looks to surge ahead after her impressive 6k time at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational. 

Senior Katherine Hessler will likely lead the squad this weekend, as NU’s top finisher in both the Virginia Invitational and the Loyola Lakefront Invitational this year. 

Many of NU’s five scorers have competed in just three meets this season, with only one of those being a 6k. The ‘Cats had a chance to familiarize themselves with the championship course at September’s Big Ten Preview, but that race only covered a 5k distance. This week’s course will include an additional loop to tack on an extra kilometer. 

The team prepares to face a talented field that includes No. 15 Michigan State and No. 22 Wisconsin. However, the overall Big Ten landscape appears less formidable this year with only those two ranked teams — a reduction from five teams who were ranked at this meet last year.

At the Big Ten Preview meet, NU secured a third place finish out of seven squads. The ‘Cats fell short to Wisconsin by seven points and Michigan by four points. 

The defining factor came from the teams’ respective fifth runners, where NU’s fifth crossed the line in 23rd place, as opposed to Wisconsin and Michigan’s 14th and 16th place finishes, respectively. Both the Wolverines and Badgers had a sixth runner that finished before the ‘Cats’ fifth.

Ohio State also constitutes a contender this weekend. While NU outpaced them by a margin of 78 points at the Big Ten Preview, the Buckeyes were able to edge out the ‘Cats substantially in the Loyola Lakefront Invitational just three weeks later.

At the preview meet, all five runners crossed the line for NU before Ohio State’s second runner; but at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational, the Buckeyes’ second runner, came across before any of the ‘Cats. 

For NU to improve upon last year’s historic fifth-place finish, Ohio State will be the team it must overcome. With reigning conference individual champion Addie Engel pacing the pack of Buckeyes, Hessler and company will certainly have their work cut out for them.

Following the Big Ten meet, the ‘Cats will look toward the Midwest Regional Championship, which will be held on Nov. 10 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The team is currently ranked third in the Midwest and a top-two finish in the regional meet would secure NU a second straight automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AudreyPachuta

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