Team faces country’s best

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The NCAA requires the host school of each year’s national championship to hold a pre-national meet so teams have an opportunity to see the course before the championship meet.

Next Saturday, Marquette’s cross country teams will be looking to battle it out with several of the top teams in the country.

None of the teams going to the meet are guaranteed a spot at nationals (each team has to go through a regional qualifying meet first), but because doing well at pre-nationals can greatly help a team’s chances of getting an at-large bid to nationals, many of the major players on the national cross country scene will be at the meet this weekend.

Among the competition that the No. 26 women’s team will see: No. 1 Brigham Young, No. 2 Stanford, Nos. 5 through 9 Notre Dame, NC State, Colorado, Georgetown and Columbia, along with intrastate rival No. 17 Wisconsin.

There will be 72 women’s teams and 74 men’s teams participating, a number so high that the meet will be divided up so that half of the women’s teams will race each other and half of the men’s teams will race each other. Because of this, neither Marquette team knows who they will be competing against until the seedings are announced on Wednesday.

However, chances are that the women will see some of the teams ranked around them, and will have an opportunity to advance in the rankings. Missouri (21), Michigan (22), Princeton (23), William & Mary (24), Nebraska (25) and West Virginia (27) will all be racing.

“I’m hoping that we’ll be in the top six to seven in our race and mainly just try and beat some teams that are ranked in front of us,” head coach Dave Uhrich said.

The men have somewhat more at stake as they try to show the rest of Conference USA that their first-place performance at Williamette University in Oregon was not a fluke.

“It’s important for the men (to do well) because they need to show how they ran in Oregon was more what they’re level is as opposed to how they ran at

Minnesota,” Uhrich said. “They need to try to beat as many teams as possible, and try to beat some good teams.”

Uhrich said while it is important to do well at pre-nationals, the conference championship meet is still the most important meet of the year.

The conference championship meet and pre-nationals, he said, “are important for different reasons. Conference is a meet you’re trying to win, and this is a meet where we’re just trying to establish ourselves at a national level.”

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