Marquette Cross-Country: Runners out to prove more as competition gets tougher

After a week off from competition, the Marquette cross-country team will travel to Kentucky to race in the 11th annual Greater Louisville Cross-Country Classic. The men’s side  is coming off a fourth place finish at the National Catholic Championship at Notre Dame, while the women placed third.

“A lot of the runners believe they have something to prove this weekend,” coach Mike Nelson said. “Sometimes there’s guys who take a race or two before they get back into the swing of things. I feel like we have that and that’s why this could be our best race to date.”

For those on the team who aren’t freshmen and didn’t redshirt in 2011, the course should be familiar. The men placed sixth at the 2011 Louisville Classic and then ran the same course for the Big East Cross-Country Championship.

Senior captain Patrick Maag was a part of those two races and enjoys running on the flat course.

“It is similar to Notre Dame, but a bit harder and faster,” Maag said. “We’ll be looking for some top times, so everyone should be setting personal bests. It’s a fairly easy course to figure out and the level of competition will be there.”

Senior captain Jack Senefeld could be cleared to race on Saturday and make his 2012 season debut. The men will be racing 17 runners, which is the most all season and is closer to the full squad that Nelson envisioned at the beginning of the season.

“A lot of the young guys have really stepped up, especially freshmen Cody Haberkorn and William Hennessy,” Senefeld said. “I think they’ve performed very well with the absence of two senior captains. It’s been good to see the team progress even though I’m not in there as much as I would like to be.”

Haberkorn and Hennessy have consistently run among the team’s top seven runners at meets. If Senefeld runs close to how he was before his injury, he should be back in that group as well. Seniors Connor Callahan, Jack Hackett and Maag were the team’s top three at the last meet in South Bend, Ind.

The final spot in the top seven could be a toss-up between several runners with experience, such as junior Mitch Lacy and senior AJ Gedwill.

Despite a summer with very little running due to a foot injury, redshirt junior Spencer Agnew is showing strong signs of being back at full health and contending for that last spot. Agnew holds the freshman record for the 3,000-meter run during indoor track and just recently won a time trial held in practice.

The strength among the team’s top runners is getting better as the season progresses, as is the depth of the squad.

The women’s side has improved as well. Sophomore Elisia Meyle was the team’s top finisher at the Louisville Classic in 2011, and it was on that course that she set her season best for the 5,000-meter run.

In the latest USATF Regional Rankings, both teams were ranked 13th in the Great Lakes Region. The women are out to show that they could be ranked higher and will focus on using the finish at Notre Dame as a foundation for more success.

More teams than usual will be flocking to run in the Louisville Classic this year because the course will also host the NCAA National Championship on Nov.17.

The men’s side will feature No. 6 Texas rolling in to start their season. Arizona will also be racing, which could serve as a course test for sophomore Lawi Lalang’s mission of defending his individual national title from 2011, which he won as a freshman.

Six of the teams competing in the women’s race are ranked in the top 30 in the nation, including No. 1 Washington.

The high caliber competition should not surprise Marquette for the remainder of the season, as things will be just as competitive at the Adidas Invitational followed by the conference championship.

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