This Saturday, the men’s and women’s teams head out to the NCAA Division III Cross Country Midwest Regional. The event takes place at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, with the women beginning at 11 a.m. and the men at noon.
The teams are fresh off of the UAA conference championships, where both the men and women took home third place. Looking towards the Midwest Regional, the goal is to qualify for NCAA Division III Nationals.
“The team has been set on nationals since before the beginning of the season,” said third-year runner Madeleine Horvath. “We would be thrilled to qualify and have the opportunity to beat the best teams in the country.”
The easiest way to move on to nationals from regionals is to simply place in the top two finishers, but due to the overall strength of the Midwest region, there are typically multiple at large bids handed out beyond the first two.
Horvath added, “Our primary goal at regionals is to place in the top two and automatically qualify for nationals. We would like to run well as a team and try to make the gap between our one and five runners as small as possible. If we don’t make the top two, placing in the top four or five would put us in a good spot to receive an at-large bid.”
Right now, the South Siders are focusing more on the mental aspect of the rise in competition and importance of the races and less on the physical side, as the season has already taken its toll on the bodies of the runners, most of whom reported to campus in late August to start the season.
“As far as preparing for regionals, we are tapering a little bit and getting mentally ready to run a fast race on a fast course,” Horvarth says.
Of the 38 teams in last year’s NCAA Division III Men’s Cross Country Regional, Chicago’s men’s team finished in ninth place while the women’s team finished third out of the 41 teams that were present.
Last week, six Maroon runners participated in the North Central Open in a pit stop between the UAA Championships and Midwest Regionals. The top women’s finisher for Chicago was first-year Anastasia Bernat, who claimed ninth place with a time of 18:40.54, while the top men’s finisher was first-year Ansel Richards, also claimed ninth place with his time of 15:51.65.
The other member of the women Maroons to participate was second-year Jenny Blazic, also accompanied by fourth-year Thomas Lynch, first year Jackson Mariotti, and Eric Guzman.
Going into this weekend’s races, the men are ranked seventh and the women second in the Midwest region.