Marquette’s cross-country team will be heading to South Bend, Ind., short-handed on the men’s side as coach Mike Nelson said that senior captains Jack Senefeld and Patrick Maag will not be racing at the National Catholic Championship due to injury. The hope is to have them back and running by the Greater Louisville Classic Sept. 29.
The Golden Eagles still managed to finish first at the NIU Huskie Open without their leaders, but the team’s depth will be lacking at a bigger meet where it will face off against 29 other teams.
Junior Bob Guthrie was among the runners poised for a big season, but he decided to redshirt the 2012 season to pursue a co-op opportunity with an engineering company. He will have two cross-country seasons of eligibility remaining as a result, which could help Marquette in the long run.
The squad of freshmen has been the group holding up the team and could be expected to put it on their shoulders this weekend. Nelson does not lack confidence in the ability of the underclassmen and their possible success.
“As far as the freshmen go, this will be a new experience. They have never seen the course,” Nelson said. “They don’t know who they’re racing, but that’s okay. You have to run your own race and not worry about anybody else.”
Notre Dame will be hosting the event, and it could be the favorite to win with runners like senior Jeremy Rae and junior Martin Grady returning with all-region accolades from 2011. Marquette freshman Patrick Campbell knows a bit about some of the rival runners but will not concern himself with going after them on race day.
“I’ve heard a lot about guys like Jeremy Rae and how he’s a very talented runner with a ton of foot speed,” Campbell said. “You just have to run your own race though and can’t go out with these guys right away and possibly get crushed.”
Senior AJ Gedwill has shown in years past that he tends to improve as the season rolls along. He has managed to finish in the top six or seven for Marquette in recent meets but could step up and finish higher.
Freshman Andres Tineo-Paz did not race last weekend due to calf tightness that led to some Achilles inflammation, but he will be running against conference foes like Notre Dame and DePaul. This will be the first 8,000-meter race of his career, but Tineo-Paz is up for the challenge.
“We just have to do a lot of what we did last weekend and work with what we have,” Tineo-Paz said. “It’s not like this meet is too crucial in the season for us.”
The men’s side would much rather have the injury bug strike now and have the team in better shape once conference play rolls along.
“Some times we start off the season and that’s as good as they are going to be. Right now, we’re as bad as we’re going to be,” Nelson said. “We’re going to do nothing but get better each week.”
The women’s side had a similar start to the 2011 season regarding injury, but 2012 has treated the team well with a full squad. Much like last week, the women’s field will be much more competitive with teams like Notre Dame, Dayton and Xavier ranked and ready to compete.
Nelson’s goal for the women is to overtake one of those teams and possibly end up in the rankings. It’s much easier said than done, but one of of the runners who could contribute to a winning effort is Holly Robertson. Robertson has improved from being 10th on the team to rounding out the top five.
Races are set to take off on Friday at 2:30 p.m in South Bend. The teams will return home that night and rest up, as the schedule will shift to competition every other week.