UC runs in BIG EAST meet on Friday|
Oct. 25, 2012
The University of Cincinnati men’s and women’s cross country teams will be running for the BIG EAST Conference championship trophies on Friday. The conference championship meet will take place at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, N.Y., a nationally renowned coursed previously hosted the BIG EAST meet in 2008. The women’s 6k race will go off at 11 a.m. and the men’s 8k will follow at 11:50 a.m.
“Our teams are very ready,” said head coach Bill Schnier. “It is always our goal to peak at the end of the season so we are poised and ready to go for the Big East as well as the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in two weeks. The teams are excited and very ambitious for the Big East, always the most important meet on our schedule.”
It has been an up-and-down season for the Bearcats, primarily due to a rash of injuries. Both teams began the season without their top returning runners and have rarely had their best lineup available all year. That will still be the case when UC steps to the line on Friday.
“Everyone is not healthy now and we are missing some key people,” said Schnier. “The men’s team has missed Oliver Book, Kevin Fink, Ethan Bokeno and Greg Sanders all season. Recently, our second or third man, Jeff Griffiths, has been nursing a hip flexor strain and most recently a strained neck muscle. If Jeff is able to run well it will look as if we have nobody injured, but if he struggles then we will be in trouble.
“Our women have trained hard and have a few not able to run. Carly Bauer, Maggie Bischoff, Hannah Christ, Melissa Deitzer, Lauren Goodwin, Sara Knollman, Sarah Pierce and Stephanie Rosso are unavailable for the Big East. That is more casualties than we have ever had in one year. However, we are still doing OK. Last year’s MVP, Ali Zukowski, has been a little injured all year with a quad strain but if she can run well then it will appear as if we had no injuries. We still have big plans despite these problems.”
The Bearcats’ top finisher on the men’s side will most likely be Colin Cotton. He’s been the No. 1 runner for UC in every meet this season. And just as Cotton has been the clear-cut No. 1, Chase Beckmann has been almost as certain in the No. 2 position. With uncertainty of Griffiths condition due to injury, the next positions could fall in any order with he, Evan Baum and Eric Hauser. Ian Silver and Jacob Franklin have rounded out the scoring positions for UC in past races.
Emily Clay has been as dominating on the women’s team as Cotton has for the men’s, also taking UC’s top spot in every race this season. Kaitlyn Meyer and Anne Pace have typically finished in the No. 2 and 3 spots although Zukowski’s return to form could shake that up. Ashley Earman, Alex Mahle and Stephanie Mee have generally been the next group of runners for UC.
UC typically runs a very competitive schedule of meets throughout the season, primarily to prepare for the BIG EAST meet. Between the two races, there will be eight nationally ranked teams and 15 regionally ranked teams. The Bearcats’ men’s team does come into the meet ranked 13th in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Great Lakes Region poll while the women’s team is unranked.
“Our conference is very strong in distance running so it is hard to be at or near the top,” said Schnier. “Since we are a school which has always striven for excellence in all events (in the track and field program), doing well in cross country is tough because a few schools put their heart and soul into just distance runners. Nevertheless, we are always competitive.”
Part of the story of this year’s conference championship meet is the course itself. Van Cortlandt Park’s cross country course held its first meet in 1913, meaning it is closing out a century of competition on its trails this year. Whereas last year’s site – E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park in Louisville, which is the course for this year’s NCAA national championship meet – was flat and fast, Van Cortlandt Park’s course offers a variety of terrain and that could play to the Bearcats’ liking. “
Any time hills are involved it helps the Cincinnati Bearcats,” said Schnier. “Many consider Van Cortlandt Park to be the nation’s most historic course and that is certainly the case on the East Coast. The course is very flat for the first 1.5 miles, then enters some tough hills for the middle part of the race. It is true cross country with lots of ups and downs, lefts and rights. The final 800 meters is first downhill, then flat.”