Cross country Pre-Nationals brings disappointment

Coach Mike Nelson wanted his men’s and women’s cross country teams to place better at this year’s Pre-Nationals meet, held in Terre Haute, Ind., Saturday, than any other Marquette team in the past two years.

However, neither team was able to meet Nelson’s goal. The men finished 30th and the women 29th. In order to reach Nelson’s goal the men needed to finish better than 27th and the women 19th.

Nelson wasn’t disappointed with the teams’ failure to meet his expectation, though, because of the meet’s characteristics.

“It’s really hard to control your own destiny at Pre-Nationals,” Nelson said. “You don’t know who’s in your races until a day or two before hand. Then some teams are on the list to go to the meet and then they don’t even show up.

“It’s a really hard race to predict how things are going to turn out. There are so many teams, runners and the races are so fast. It’s very difficult to predict how people are going to perform there too.”

Sophomore Blake Johnson led the men’s team with his 155th place finish and a time of 25:51.1 in the 5-mile race. Junior Brice Cleland was the second Golden Eagle to cross the finish line, in 170th place at 25:59.6. Fellow junior Nick Szczech finished 187th with a time of 26:09.9.

Johnson said both he and the team could have finished much better had everyone come out stronger when the gun went off.

“As a team we all went out a little too conservatively — the race generally goes out really fast so to do well further in the race we needed to go out that way, but we went out a little bit too conservatively,” Johnson said. “I learned if I want to place higher I need to be further up in the beginning to set myself up to place higher at the end.”

For the women, senior Jayne Grebinski led the way with her 83rd place finish and time of 21:55.9 in the 3.7-mile race. Fellow senior Anna Webber was second across the finish line in 148th place at 22:37.6. Juniors Olivia Johnson, Kristin Pelzel and Molly Arenberg finished 154th, 165th and 170th, respectively.

Webber said she and her teammates were all frustrated with the 29th place finish, especially since they placed their top five runners in the top 175, like Nelson said they would need to in order to do well.

“We were all a little disappointed with what the results showed at the end because as a team we definitely raced better than our disappointing 29th place,” Webber said. “But it’s tough to look at the results and analyze them because the level of competition is just so good at Pre-Nationals.”

Nelson said the women need to get their top runners to finish closer together in order to be more successful at the Big East Championship on Oct. 31.

“We need to get our number two and three girls a lot closer to Jayne (Grebinski),” Nelson said. “There’s way too big of a gap between number one and two. We can’t have that at the conference meet.”