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Cross country teams hope to extend their season

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After a historic outing at the BIG EAST Championships last weekend, the Marquette cross country teams are preparing for what could be their last race of the season at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute, Indiana.

As the important race approaches, Marquette seems to have found its groove at an appropriate time.

Sophomore Daniel Pederson made history by becoming the first male runner from Marquette to finish in the top 10 at the BIG EAST championships. He improved 17 spots from his 25th place finish at last year’s conference meet.

The women’s team recorded its best finish in the BIG EAST meet since 2005 after earning fourth place. Five different runners placed in the top 33 among the field of 70.

Cross country head coach Mike Nelson said he was pleased with how many runners made contributions to Marquette’s performance.

“We got the best out of all of our athletes (Saturday),” Nelson said. “Whether is was our number one runner or our no. 10 runner, all of them played a part in achieving that result.”

The Golden Eagles placing in the upcoming regional meet is crucial. It determines whether they will advance to the Nov. 18 NCAA Championships in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Hopefully the Great Lakes Regional is not our last race,” Nelson said. “If we can perform the way we have all year, I believe we have a chance to qualify for nationals.”

Landing a spot in the NCAA Championships is a tall task, though. Only the top two teams from each of the nine NCAA Regionals earn an automatic bid to the big race. A committee of collegiate coaches then selects 13 teams from the rest of the country to earn at-large bids.

On the women’s side, Marquette has not qualified for the NCAA Championships since 2005, although that was the final year of six consecutive seasons qualifying.

The men have more history to play for. The Marquette record books show no indication of the team ever qualifying for the NCAA Championships. 

In a race stacked with fierce competition, Nelson said the key for his athletes is to focus on themselves and the things only they can control.

“The only thing you can control is your own effort and attitude,” Nelson said. “You can’t go out there and worry about who is running against you.”

Although Nelson said he believes both the men and women are capable of qualifying for nationals, it won’t necessarily be a disappointment if they fall short.

“Our goal every year is for each individual to perform better than the year before,” Nelson said. “It goes beyond simply our results as team. Of course, we would like to place high and get a good result, but it’s really more about the personal growth of our athletes.”

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