Marquette’s cross-country team will be taking both the men’s and women’s sides to the Bradley Classic this weekend for the last meet before heading to New York for the Big East Cross-Country Championship.
The men were originally supposed to travel to Verona, Wis., for the Adidas Invitational, but coach Mike Nelson reassessed the field and decided that running in Peoria, Ill., would be a better setting for the tune-up before the conference season heats up.
“The decision was made, and we decided to compete at Bradley and build our confidence a little bit,” Nelson said. “I think that prepares us best for the Big East Championship and NCAA Regionals after that.”
Injuries have plagued the Golden Eagles throughout the season, but the team will be running most of its squad on the men’s side. Senior captains Patrick Maag and Jack Senefeld will be racing after missing the majority of the start of the season.
Senefeld finished fifth for the team at the Louisville Classic in 26:01:30 in the 8,000-meter run. He should be running closer to his 24:38 personal best with a few weeks of practice under his belt now. Louisville was a starting base. Senefeld is smart enough to run a tactical race and get back to his top fitness in the coming weeks.
“I’m looking to vastly improve my performance and help out the team any way that I can,” Senefeld said. “I think everyone’s goal is to run as fast as you possibly can, so my goal is aligned with everyone else’s.”
Several members of the men’s team will be racing on the Bradley Classic course for the first time, but they are very familiar with many of the teams that will be competing.
Senior Connor Callahan lost to DePaul’s Eddie McDaniel at this year’s NIU Invite and then got his revenge by beating him at the National Catholic Championship. DePaul will be there along with 21 other schools. Callahan believes he has the strength for a possible breakout race.
“I like to think that I have another 30 or 40 seconds in me as far as 8K goes on the right day,” Callahan said. “I think Bradley is the type of course where that can happen.”
The women’s side will be without one of its top runners in sophomore Elisia Meyle, who will continue to sit out races due to illness. Kellie Greenwood did not race at Louisville either but will be running in her first 6,000-meter race this weekend. She has been recovering from an Achilles injury and will be fighting to get back to the sixth or seventh runner range where she had been before.
Greenwood is one of four freshmen who will be making their season debuts at that distance. Nelson believes that the increase in distance is only an issue if the runners make it one.
“I told the ladies, ‘It doesn’t matter if you were running a half-marathon. You’re going to beat the people you’re going to beat and lose to people that you were going to lose to,’” he said. “It only matters if you let it matter. Everybody’s got to race 6K.”
The squad will begin to slim down after the Bradley Classic with only nine runners competing on both sides at the Big East Championship. Workouts, intensity and focus, however, will not change.
“At this time, we’ll focus a little bit more on speed work, but we’ll still be doing our tempos and long runs,” Nelson said. “Things don’t really change that much. The effort by the guys remains the same.”