Cross country heads to regionals

By Rhema Rhea

Cross country will battle the biggest and toughest field of the season when it travels to Ames, Iowa, for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Friday.

The championship will be hosted by the Iowa State Cyclones, which have won the last three Midwest Regional championships. This is the first regional the Cyclones will be without Midwest Regional and 2012 NCAA National Champion Betsy Saina, who graduated in May.

NIU will take its top seven runners based on performances during last week’s Mid-American Conference Championship. The roster features team captain Jamie Burr, Ali Olson, Juliane Totzke, Leah Raffety, Meghan Heuer, Claire McAuley and Carly Pederson.

Totzke, Burr, McAuley and Olson are the four Huskies who have Midwest Regionals experience, as they were present when NIU took 27 out of 31 last season.

NIU has put together a strategy it will try and execute on Friday.

“One of the most important things that I am going to speak to the girls about is working with each other,” said head coach Greg Hipp. “With such a large field, having some familiar faces around each other can be important.

“They also stay confident, and the key thing I really want to see is for us to get to the 4K in the race in position to reach our goals…. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves in position later in the race to have a chance at our goals and not allowing ourselves to talk ourselves out of being ready for something really early on in the race.”

Olson, Raffety, Heuer and hopefully Burr, who is still feeling some discomfort due to her hip, are runners Hipp feels can accomplish these goals.

“We need to get a group of girls in the top 100 in this race, and that will put us in a position to improve as a team,” Hipp said. “That is where I think a lot of the girls’ individual goals are. Girls like Leah and Ali, those are the range of places that they would say are their current individual goals.”

All nine regions have their Regional Championship on Friday.

The top two teams from each region and top four individuals not on an advancing team move on to the NCAA Championships. A committee selects 13 additional at-large teams from the region as well as two more individuals — totaling 38 individuals and 31 teams — to compete in the NCAA National Championship on Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind.

The Huskies take to the course for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships at 1:15 p.m. in Ames, Iowa.

“The girls in our region have competed well all season,” Hipp said. ”It’s just a matter of us putting it together. We need to race with some confidence and clear-cut goals in mind.”