Fall Sports Preview – Cross Country: Wildcats looking for leap after difficult year
In the spring’s outdoor track and field season, none of Northwestern’s runners earned a berth in the NCAA West Regional Championships, which first-year coach ‘A Havahla Haynes set as her team’s goal.
But although the Wildcats did not meet the goal that Haynes set for them and are set to lose a lot of runners to graduation, there were signs that the team could be on the rise entering this fall’s cross country season.
The biggest loss from last season’s team is now-graduated Elena Barham, who notched NU’s best 5,000- and 6,000-meter times last fall and was the team’s best 10,000-meter runner during the outdoor track season. With Barham and seven other seniors leaving from last season’s squad, younger runners like juniors Brooke Pigneri and Sara Coffey, who both showed flashes last year, will be counted on to step forward.
The Cats will also hope to get a boost from a pair of senior runners who struggled with injury last fall, Jena Pianin and Andrea Ostenso. The duo, who raced to top-16 finishes in the NCAA Midwest Regional in the fall of 2014, both missed large swaths of time last season and will be looking to reestablish themselves as top runners in their final year at NU.
The incoming freshman class boasts four new runners, most notably Aubrey Roberts, last year’s Wisconsin Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. The Eau Claire native won a Division 1 individual state championship last year and held up well in high-profile regional and national meets during her last year in high school.
Although a lot of senior contributors are leaving, there appear to be a lot of avenues for internal improvement for the Cats. So while her team fell short at the end of the outdoor track season, Haynes said she is hopeful for glory come the fall.