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SEASON PREVIEW: Cross country teams look toward stronger performances in postseason

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Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics

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After losing nine athletes to graduation last year, Marquette’s men’s and women’s cross country teams look a bit different going into the 2018 season.

“On both sides, it’s a bit of a new look,” head coach Mike Nelson said.

Despite that “new look,” Marquette is confident the team still has plenty of high-level athletes ready to take over leadership roles this season.

Last season, the Golden Eagles were successful at nearly every invite. The 2017 campaign ended at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, where the men placed 14th out of 26 teams, and the women took 12th of 31. Seniors Alec Miller and Jennifer Parker placed 62nd and 41st, respectively.

This season’s captains — Jon Klaiber, Henry Mierzwa, Nora Keller and Mary Hanson— look to step up as leaders while improving their personal records.

“These athletes are strong leaders not only in competition, but also in the classroom and in general in the community,” Nelson said.

Nelson will also have to increasingly rely on the six freshmen on each team.

“I think this freshman group, both the men and the women, are ready for the challenge,” Nelson said. “We’ll definitely be relying on them to help our teams this season.”

The transition from high school cross country to a Division I program can be difficult, especially with further distances, which require more training and conditioning. However, many freshmen have come through Marquette and had success despite the tough transition.

“I feel like we have some extremely hard workers in this group; athletes that just really enjoy training,” Nelson said.

In terms of this year’s competition, most of the Golden Eagles’ schedule resembles the opponents from last season. The team will once again head to Louisville, Kentucky, where the men finished 18th and the women finished 15th. Differing from 2017, most of Marquette’s postseason will be held in Indiana, including the BIG EAST Championships in Carmel and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute.

The teams head to the Vic Godfrey Open in Somers, Wisconsin Sept. 8 for their first invite of the season. Last season, both teams had spectacular performances during this invite, placing first overall for both the women’s and men’s races.

Many Golden Eagles are focused less on the competition and more on their personal records.

“I’m excited to see the progression our athletes will make,” Nelson said. “I think many could improve by over 30 seconds to a minute from where they were last year.”

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