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Marquette cross-country: Team uses tournament to prepare for Big East Championships

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A few months ago, redshirt senior Alyssa Stevens was frustrated with herself and her sport. She was “ready to hang up her cleats.” These days, nothing is further from the truth, as Stevens is reinvigorated by a new team — joining the Marquette women’s cross-country team after three years of track and field.

“My last year on the track team, I was doing better with distance so it made sense for me to do cross-country,” Stevens said. “The transition was quite easy. It’s great having other people to run with.”

Although coach Mike Nelson is pleased with her transition, he is still waiting for Stevens’ competitive performances to equal what she’s done in practice. This weekend there’s an opportunity to do so at the Greater Louisville Classic in Kentucky, and Stevens is eager to take advantage.

“This weekend is my fourth race ever,” Stevens said. “And I just try to get better every single week. I want more experience; my goal is to just improve.”

To continue moving forward, both the men’s and women’s teams will look to overcome another obstacle this weekend by jumping back in to competitive racing after two weeks of rest. Some teams would let the lull pacify their competitive edge, but Nelson is positive the teams will stay on track.

“I think emotionally it will help us,” he said. “Every race you drain your emotional bank account, and now we were able to refill that.

“Both teams are excited about the race, and we can’t coach excitement. I hope it will help them run a little faster.”

Junior Connor Callahan agreed, adding that Louisville’s flat course lends itself to a quicker opening mile. He also stated that the Golden Eagles’ runners should pay extra attention to the course this weekend, which is the site for the Big East Cross-Country Championships on Oct. 29.

“We get to see where it’s hosted,” Callahan said. “And when you’re previewing a course, it’s about finding strategies that might work. If there’s a hill at one point you now know how to prepare for it, or you figure out whether to start conservatively or harder.”

Nelson values this scouting experience immensely and has taken great strides to make this weekend a “trial run” for the Big East championship.

“We’re going to leave at the same time for conference as we’re going to leave this Friday. Take the same bus, take the same route, stay at the same hotel, and obviously run the same course,” he said. “Having gone through that and practiced is all an advantage for us. Everything won’t be totally new.”

Callahan, Stevens and Nelson believe that this weekend’s team will be at its best, with runners using the weeks off to get healthy. Callahan emphasized the return of sophomore Jack Senefeld, while Nelson was excited about the team in general.

“I feel like this is the first time this season where we will be close to full strength,” Nelson said. “You’ll never really be at full strength at this point, but we’re close.”

“For the team, we’ve got a lot of girls coming back from injury,” Stevens said. “Our team goal is to keep working hard to get better.”

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