As the temperature continues to drop across the Midwest, the Maroons will look to keep their hot start to the season going.
This weekend, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams will travel to Oshkosh, WI for the Brooks Invitational. Over 1150 runners from 40 teams will compete.
The competition on the men’s side includes defending national champion and current No. 1 North Central, bitter rival No. 3 Wash U, and seven other ranked teams. The Maroons, currently ranked 17th in the country, will certainly be fighting an uphill battle to finish in the top five.
“The Oshkosh meet boasts arguably the best field of any D-III race this year,” said fourth-year captain Dan Povitsky. “We’ve spoken about our potential to be near the 10th best team at NCAAs. This meet is the chance for us to race confidently and to reach that high level we believe we’re capable of.”
The women’s race will also feature a strong lineup. However, the Maroons are the favorite to win as they currently rank sixth in the country. Their toughest competition will come from Calvin and Trinity, ranked eighth and ninth in the nation, respectively, and Olivet, ranked sixth in the NAIA. Wash U will also be in the mix along with three additional ranked teams from DIII.
While the Brooks Invitational does not hold any specific meaning for the Maroons, it will foreshadow the remainder of the season for the South Siders.
As the last meet before the conference championship, the Brooks Invitational will serve as a tune-up for the UAA championship in Pittsburgh in two weeks and the regional race in a month. The level of competition will be strong, and the cold and wet racing conditions will mimic Pittsburgh’s early November climate.
In addition, the Brooks Invitational will likely play a large role in the selection of the travel squad for the Maroons. The UAA only allows for 10 members from each team to compete in the conference championship. Thus, not all the Maroons will make the trip to Pittsburgh in two weeks.
However, even more importantly, it will give the men a chance to take on the top team in the UAA before the result counts for real. Also, it will allow the men to race against some of the better teams in the Midwest region, crucial experience if the South Siders want to make it to the national race. Currently, the Maroons rank sixth in the Midwest region, but they will likely have to place fifth in the regional race to make it to nationals.
“The competition is exceptional and will give us a nice refresher on how to perform well in large fields of upper-level D-III teams,” Povitsky said.
For the women, the Brooks Invitational will give the Maroons an opportunity to cement their spot in the conference, region, and nation. Wash U currently holds the No. 3 spot in the UAA, and a commanding win over the Bears would certainly send a message to the rest of the conference. In the national arena, the Maroons will see teams from 10 states and runners they have never encountered before, many of whom they will see again at the national race. Thus, the Brooks Invitational will determine where the Maroons really stand nationally as rankings can only judge a team so well.
Individuals to watch for this weekend will be Povitsky and second-year Catherine Young. Both are having spectacular seasons and have not finished below 10th in any race this year.
“The Midwest competition has a high concentration of the best individuals in the country, including many returning All-Americans,” Povitsky said. “I'm thrilled to have great runners to race against; more front-runners yield…a faster race and the chance to get pulled to some great times.”
The women’s race will start at 10:30 a.m. followed by the men’s race at 11:15 a.m. in Oshkosh, WI.