Bearcats Face Toughest Test Yet at Pre-Nationals|
Oct. 13, 2011
By Mario Cannon
The women's and undefeated men's cross country teams are preparing for the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind., on October 16. It's a great meet filled with many great teams. It's set up to prepare possible national qualifiers for the NCAA Championships Nov. 12 and allow all athletes a chance to compete at the same location in which the national championship will be held.
This meet is a great opportunity for the Bearcats to earn a bid to the NCAA Championship as a team. The Bearcats have two standouts in particular with who have a chance to qualify for the national meet individually. Senior Eric Finan is a 2011 men's track and field all-American who hasn't lost a race this season. This will be his biggest challenge this season. Junior Oliver Book is having a breakout season with his second-place finish in the All-Ohio Championship two weeks ago. Along with those two is Kevin Fink who placed 12th at the All-Ohio. It takes five top placings to qualify, so head coach Bill Schnier is in need of to two more of his athletes step up and place high.
Qualifying for the NCAA Championship as a team is the Bearcats big goal. In order to do so they must score points nationally as a team. One or two points will possibly qualify them. Only 31 teams qualify for nationals, 18 from the two automatic bids out of the nine regions and 13 who earned the most points during the season. There are 38 total athletes who will qualify individually to compete, 36 are the top four finishers from the nine regions and two are the best "at large".
"I feel very good for our men because we were first in All-Ohio," Schnier said about their chances at Pre-Nationals . "Considering our region is made up of four states, that puts us in good position to be first or to be second. Our women's team was fifth in the All-Ohio and not ranked in the region. I still feel good about their effort, but as for qualifying for the national meet, it's going to be difficult. Although, it is going to be difficult for both."
The women's team is prepared to face the challenge directly. They will be lead by junior Alison Zukowski who's been their finisher in the first three out of their four meets this season. Freshmen Emily Clay is also standout for the women's team with her 10th place finish in the All-Ohio, while being one of the top freshmen in the state.
The men's team has momentum and confidence coming off their win at the All-Ohio Championship, which they haven't won since 2001. The season has been a memorable and a successful one so far. Further success in the next three meets (Pre-Nationals, BIG EAST Championship and the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship) will place the Bearcats on the national stage. The BIG EAST alone has had 12 nationally ranked teams this season between the men's and women's teams.
The road ahead of them is a difficult one, but their ready to take it with hopes it goes in a complete circle from NCAA Pre-Nationals back to the NCAA Championship in Indiana.