The women’s cross-country team will face powerful rivals at the Wisconsin–Oshkosh Invitational on Saturday.
“This is a great meet,” said coach Chris Hall. “The competition is a big challenge—we’re up against ten nationally-ranked schools.” Chicago stands fourth in the region and 15th nationally.
“To be honest, I think we’re under-ranked,” said Hall. “We’ve been running very well, and I think we’re better than the polls indicate. This weekend, we’ll see if I’m right. It’s a chance to elevate ourselves and match up against the best in our division.”
Seven of the top ten regional teams will compete in Saturday’s race, among them current regional leader Washington University. Other key competitors include host University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, Calvin College, and Hope College, respectively ranked seventh, tenth, and thirteenth nationally. Calvin College took top honors at last year’s Invitational with a score of 80 points.
North Central College and Illinois Wesleyan will also be at the meet. The Maroons finished behind them in last week’s Benedictine University Invitational, placing ninth with 205 points.
At the meet, second-year Elsbeth Grant finished 19th with a time of 24:58, first among Chicago’s runners. She was followed by first-year Kiko Wemmer in 39th place (25:55) and third-year Kaila Queseda in 47th (26:07). And the Maroons will also need strong performances from young runners like first-year Michaela Whitelaw, who ran a 19:10 at Loyola’s 5K. Hopefully, these rival regional teams will be swept away in Chicago’s effort to earn national recognition.
“The team needs to understand that we should be mentioned as one of the top teams in the country. We all need to run fast times and smart races while also closing our time gaps and working together as teammates during the race,” fourth-year Molly Peverada commented. “We are mostly focusing on Wash U, as they are our rivals in our conference and have been dominant for so long. We also believe that UW–Oshkosh will be extremely strong, and since they are in the Midwest region, we need to focus our attention on them as well.”
In terms of running strategy, the team will focus on racing in a closer group. Champ Liz Lawton will lead the pack, according to Hall. “We need to get the next four girls racing together,” he added. “Ideally there would be no more than ten to fifteen seconds between our number-two finisher and our number-five finisher.”
(In cross country, the places of the first five finishers are added to get the team’s overall score).
A strong finish Saturday would be a major boost on the road to the NCAAs. “The team hasn’t had much of a chance to compete with other D-III teams, and this would be a good indicator of our chances at the UAA Championship,” Hall said. That race, next on the list for the Maroons, will take place in New York two weeks from Saturday.