This weekend the Marquette cross-country teams will travel to the NCAA Great Lakes Regional looking to improve results in both the women’s and men’s divisions, whom finished 10th and 16th last season, respectively.
The race, which will be held at Ottawa Park Golf Course in Toledo, Ohio, also represents the Golden Eagles’ last chance to add an impressive result to their resume for an at-large bid to the NCAA National Championships on Nov. 21. Although placing in the top four teams secures an automatic bid to the national race, the Great Lakes region includes tough competition such as Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
“You can’t put the cart before the horse and start thinking about nationals. We just want to run our best race possible here,” coach Mike Nelson said. “Our goals are for a top-10 finish for the men and top-15 for the women.”
These expectations recognize the difficulty of the competition, but Nelson believes that when you are in a race you can’t worry about others, but simply make sure your individual performance is where it needs to be.
“Making it to nationals has a lot to do with other teams, and you just cannot focus on that,” Nelson said. “I don’t think there is any momentum from conference, we haven’t thought about that since five minutes after that race … I just want people to run their best and what they are capable of doing, run what you are capable of.”
Nelson also mentioned that he would be looking to his team leaders from throughout the year to come out and step up this weekend in Ohio.
On the men’s side, that means the experience of seniors Blake Johnson and Peter Bolgert, along with sophomore Jack Senefeld.
However the women’s team has seen a carousel of runners lead the team this year, most recently freshman Elisia Meyle at the Big East Championships.
Earlier last week, Meyle spoke about the regional meet and echoed Nelson’s feelings about focusing on your own performance.
“I honestly don’t even know who we’re running against at regionals,” Meyle said. “But I would expect us to come out and perform the same way.”
Meyle also said that she believes that this attitude may actually stem her lack of experience. She comes into every race with no expectations. It’s just her against the clock.
“Other people have to have expectations around what they’re supposed to be doing or a gauge of how they should do,” she said. “I feel that this has worked well for me.”
Like Meyle, the clock has been no match for Senefeld, who is also coming off an impressive performance at the conference meet. Following that race, Senefeld said that he was proud of his team but was only looking one race at a time.
Yet Senfeld went one step further, also stating that even though you race without looking at your competition, previous results can provide inspiration going into a big race.
“I remember when I was (sitting out my redshirt season), I saw the conference championship and said I wanted to be out there and do better,” he said. “Moving into the next races … I want to continue our success.”
Nelson, who was coy about specific race strategies, did isolate one advantage that may push the Golden Eagles to success, especially this weekend.
“One thing about the regional meet is that if you can take seven healthy (men) or women to the meet, you have a big advantage,” Nelson said. “A lot of teams get to this point in the year and they’re really banged up. We think we can use our health as an advantage.”