Griak Invitational a big test for cross-country

Strong competition, tough course expected at historic meet

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Griak Invitational a big test for cross-country

The men and women both underpreformed at last year's Griak Intivational.  (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics/Maggie Bean)

The men and women both underpreformed at last year's Griak Intivational. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics/Maggie Bean)

The men and women both underpreformed at last year's Griak Intivational. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics/Maggie Bean)

The men and women both underpreformed at last year's Griak Intivational. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics/Maggie Bean)

Dan Reiner, daniel.reiner@mu.edu

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After a mixed bag of results at the National Catholic Championships last weekend, the Marquette cross-country teams will try to get on the right path this Saturday at the famed Roy Griak Invitational.

Head coach Mike Nelson hopes his teams can erase the memory of last season’s performances at Griak. The hilly course, which runs through Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, was met with 85-degree sunshine and high humidity for the races.

“Last year at this meet there was a lot of things that just didn’t go right,” Nelson said.

Specifically, the Marquette women’s cross-country team finished 25th out of 35 teams, while the men placed 28th out of 31. Nelson said that many athletes from competing schools were sent to the hospital due to dehydration, a scene he described as something he will never forget.

While the forecast for this year doesn’t call for quite as extreme conditions, the Golden Eagles will still need to prepare for the grueling course.

“We’re just hoping to have a better performance and walk away with a positive experience,” Nelson said. “I have no set expectations.”

Nelson was disappointed with the men’s performance at the Catholic Championships, noting that the upperclassmen weren’t prepared for the race. While he hopes they’ll bring some intensity to Griak, the team will continue to rely on sophomore Alec Miller and freshman Jon Klaiber, who has shown he belongs in Marquette’s top seven.

“Jon just continues to really impress me,” Nelson said. “He puts it out there and he just goes. He’s not afraid to mix it up with the top guys in the race.”

On the women’s side, redshirt junior Clare McDonald and senior Kayla Spencer made their season debuts last weekend and rounded out Marquette’s scoring lineup. Nelson felt that the women have improved from week-to-week, so he’s hoping they can continue that trend this weekend.

More than 300 athletes total are expected to run in the men’s and women’s championship races. Marquette will get to take on both familiar and unfamiliar top-tier opponents from around the country, including Michigan State, California State, Boise State and Minnesota State, all who are either ranked or receiving votes on the men’s and women’s sides.

Despite the influx of competition, Nelson believes that in running the mental aspect is the biggest factor for placing in the top half.

“We won’t worry about anybody else,” Nelson said. “When you’re out there running with 250 other runners, you have no idea what’s going on other than what you’re doing for yourself. If you can keep your composure and keep poise, I think you can do well at this meet.”

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