Last Friday was a perfect day for running in the Bronx as Marquette’s cross country team lined up for the Big East Cross-Country Championship at Van Cortlandt Park.
The women’s side notched its highest finish in the standings since 2008 by placing seventh. Surprise performances by Kellie Greenwood and Rebbecca Pachuta locked up the finish against national powerhouses like Villanova, Providence, Georgetown and Connecticut.
“The conference is interesting this year, because there’s quite the disparity between the top teams and the bottom teams,” Nelson said. “We’re basically in the middle. We could’ve run a lot better or a lot worse and gotten seventh.”
Greenwood was seen around campus last week with a boot on her foot to treat an injury to her strained Achilles, but she looked to be back in full form on Friday as she finished second on the team with a time of 22:53. She was the team’s second finisher at the Alumni Run, but that does not necessarily surprise Nelson.
“I knew that if Kellie (Greenwood) was healthy, she could really contribute to the team’s success,” Nelson said. “They were really bunched in there and anyone could have been our number two, but it was just Kellie’s day, and she had a good one.”
Pachuta put together one of the more surprising finishes, as she went from being in the back end of the team pack in previous meets to finishing third.
Freshman Molly Hanson was the team’s top finisher for the fourth straight meet. At the Great Lakes Regional, she will be running her third 6,000-meter race of her career, but she believes the increase in distance is no longer an issue.
“I think the adjustment to 5,000-meters was tougher for me than 6,000 meters,” Hanson said. “I just learned to go out a little slower and conserve energy for later on in the race. I haven’t minded it as much as I thought I would.”
The men’s team placed eighth, a bit lower than its projected seventh-place finish. When senior Patrick Maag went down during the race, it put the pressure on the rest of the team to pick up the pace if it wanted to beat Cincinnati. In the end, it was too little and too late, as the extra effort was not enough.
Maag was the team leader after the first mile, but he was forced to drop out of the race after the 2,000-meter marker after re-aggravating an ankle injury. That same ankle sidelined him for several weeks earlier in the season. His status for the Great Lakes Regional is uncertain.
Senior Jack Hackett was the top Marquette finisher and realized that when Maag pulled out of the race, it was time to give it his all.
“When I saw Maag standing on the side, that’s when I thought, ‘Oh no!’” Hackett said. “At that moment we knew we had to do something to score some extra points. It gave us some extra motivation, but it was more panic than anything.”
Making the NCAA National Championship appears to be out of reach for the men’s side, and individually qualifying would take the race of their lives at Wisconsin on Nov. 9. The focus shifts to ending the season on a high note and possibly playing the role of spoiler by making other teams’ NCAA aspirations tougher.