Cross Country |
Nov. 8, 2012
The University of Cincinnati men's and women's cross country teams will compete in the NCAA Great Lakes regional championships Friday at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Verona, Wisc. The meet, which is being hosted by the University of Wisconsin, begin at 12 noon with the women's 6k race followed by the men's 10k at 1:15 p.m.
The course, which is located just west of Madison, is in just its third season of competition so the experience for the Bearcats teams will be a new one.
"We have not run this course before since it is fairly new, but it is an outstanding course, devoted solely to cross country," said UC head coach Bill Schnier. "The grass is excellent and the footing is good. It is pretty flat. We tend to run better on hilly courses which are closer to the terrain we train on."
The competition will be very good since the NCAA's Great Lakes region is one of the toughest. Four schools on both the men's and women's sides are listed in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA) national rankings, trailing only the West region in each. Wisconsin is not only the meet host but has also won the outright regional men's championship for the past four years. The Badgers are ranked sixth in the nation. The University of Michigan is 12th, Indiana University is 20th and Notre Dame is 28th. The Bearcats are ranked 14th in the regional ranking. On the women's side, Michigan comes in ranked No. 6, Michigan State University is 11th, the University of Toledo is 18th and Notre Dame 23rd. The Bearcats are not regionally ranked. Last year against similar competition, the men's team was 11th and the women finished 19th.
"The Great Lakes region is always a good one," said Schnier. "Last year's NCAA men's team champion, Wisconsin, came from our region. Our goal is to improve upon our 2011 finish as well as outperform where we are ranked this going into the meet this year."
Injuries have been a factor that the teams have fought to overcome all season. The Bearcats head into the regional meet without their top returnee on the women's side and with one of the top men's runners coming off an injury.
"Jeff Griffiths, who has been has high as our second man, continues to have a strained hip flexor muscle going into the NCAA Great Lakes regional," Schnier said. "Although it has prevented him from being at his best in the previous two meets, he has been able to practice pretty well and will run on Friday.
"Our women's team has incurred many injuries this year but mostly to those toward the bottom of our roster. However, Alison Zukowski, last year's MVP, has been diagnosed with a grade-three stress reaction and will not run on Friday. In fact she will be on crutches and disabled for at least six weeks. Fortunately we have five and even six runners who are significant but we will still miss Ali."
The women's top runner will likely be Emily Clay. She has run No. 1 for the Bearcats in every race this season. Kaitlyn Meyer has rebounded from an early-season injury to establish herself as the No. 2. She posted her career-fastest 6k time last month at the Pre-Nationals meet. After that, three runners - Ashley Earman, Anne Pace and Alex Mahle - will vie for the next spots. Earman equaled her career-high performance at the recent BIG EAST championships, running No. 3 for UC. She's been either No. 3, 4 or 5 for the Bearcats in every meet this season. Pace and Mahle have each been impressive as freshmen. Pace ran Nos. 2 and 3 through the first four meets of the season and was No. 4 in each of the last two. Mahle has been a scoring runner in every meet as well and had a season-best No. 3 placement in the blazing-fast paced Pre-Nationals meet. Stephanie Mee and Amber McAlpine round out the UC runners for the Great Lakes meet. Both ran at the BIG EAST meet two weeks ago.
Just as how Clay has run No. 1 for UC in every women's race this season, Colin Cotton has done the same for the men. The sophomore turned in his career-best 8k time at the Pre-Nationals meet in October, running on a course that is similar to what the Bearcats will see this weekend. Chase Beckmann has been UC's No. 2 in every meet but one. The senior ran at his best late last season as the courses got longer, a possible indicator of how he will do on Friday's 10k. Griffiths had been the Bearcats No. 3, or even as high as No. 2 once, but his injury at the Pre-Nationals meet slowed him for the BIG EAST championship as well. His return to form will likely have an impact on how UC will place. Eric Hauser has run No. 4 and 5 this season although he did have his season-best performance at No. 3 in the BIG EAST meet. Evan Baum has been away from campus on co-op this semester but has met the team at site to run three meets where he has been No. 4 twice and No. 3 once. Jacob Franklin, Brett Frondorf, Ian Silver, Rob Flannigan and Andrew LeTourneau will likely compete for the last two scoring positions.