Scots looking to blaze a trail to nationals starting at MIAC championships

By Daniel Kerwin

Though the weather continues to get steadily colder, the men’s and women’s cross country teams are coming off of some of their hottest performances all season, including some of the fastest times in Macalester history. Not only are both teams looking to stay hot for tomorrow’s MIAC Championships, but a few of the racers have hopes that their performances in the next couple of weeks will earn them a trip to nationals.Martin Mudry ’09 is one of the racers with a very real chance of making it to the national meet this year.

“While I know that it is always a fight to get there, I definitely have my sights set on Nationals this year,” Mudry said, “Last year I missed going by less than 15 seconds, which was really hard at the time.”

However, the most imminent task will be for both teams to stake their claim against the rest of the conference in tomorrow’s MIAC Championships, to be held at Como Park.

“It’s been held at Como Park virtually every year since the sixties. You see runners from previous decades out there, screaming crowds that cross country runners don’t usually get to enjoy,” Head Men’s Cross Country Coach Matt Haugen said. “My heart races more at Como than it ever did when I was coaching Olympic level athletes; it’s bizarre how it works.”

The women’s team is coming off of a strong overall performance in the Wisconsin-Lacrosse Tori Neubauer Invitational two weeks ago. Erin Lowery ’10 placed 24th, third best among the MIAC runners at the race, and six other Mac runners placed in the top half of the field.

Last year the team placed eighth at the MIACs, but that’s a mark that the team will be able to beat this year.

“We have some definite team goals going into MIACs,” Co-captain Emily Dunn ’09 said. “The team is excited to maybe beat some MIAC teams that we haven’t in the past few years.”

“We have a lot of depth on our team, we’re excited to see how our depth plays out,” Co-captain Molly MacMorris-Adix ’09 said. “We are rip-roaring ready to go.”

Lowery, who placed seventh at the MIACs last year, will most likely lead the way for the team tomorrow.

“Personally I want to place higher than last year,” Lowery said. “Looking forward to regionals I guess my goal is to make it back to nationals.”

To make it to nationals for the second year in a row, Lowery will not only have to run well in the MIACs, but in the NCAA Central Region Championships to be held two weeks from now in Grinnell, Iowa. Both the men’s and women’s teams will send seven runners to regionals. To qualify for nationals, Macalester runners will have to finish among the top seven individuals in the race, excluding individuals who will be qualifying for nationals as a part of their team.

For the men’s team, Mudry and Wade Ekstrom ’10 are looking to start their run towards nationals with an outstanding performance tomorrow.

“Martin and Wade are going to be factors in the top ten,” Haugen said. “It’s rare for both the teammates and the coach to have that excitement factor, having a few guys chasing a single digit finish.”

“Just to be all-MIAC will be selling ourselves short,” Ekstrom said. “We know we can run with the best runners in the conference, we’re looking to at least make the top five.”

On Oct. 3, Mudry and Ekstrom respectively ran the third and fourth fastest times in Macalester history at the Wisconsin-Eau Claire Blugold Invitational. Making nationals would be a fitting accomplishment for the season for both, especially since this is Mudry’s senior year.

“You hear this from a lot of people that achieve great things: work hard for something, and know you can get it, but that it is not the end of the world if you don’t,” Mudry said. “That’s been my attitude towards this season. Sure some races have felt really hard, and I haven’t always felt perfect before hand, but I figured out how to let myself run well on any given day.

“It hasn’t hit me yet, but I know the senior aspect, will hit when it is important. You can do some big things when you realize that it’s your last chance.”

Mudry and Ekstrom are also looking to help the team improve on its eighth place finish at last year’s MIACs, which came after a string of fourth place finishes in previous years. The team is looking to finish at least in the top six, but the difference between a sixth place finish and a nince place finish will be very close. It will all depend on the gap between Mudry and Ekstrom and the rest of Macalester’s top five runners.

“The key for the men’s team is for our number three through five runners to close the gap,” Franz Meyer ’09 said. “Martin and Wade are going to be way up there, but they have been every time.”

At least none of the runners seem to be fazed by the recent cold weather, seeing it in most cases as more of an advantage than as a hindrance.

“I know it affects everybody differently, but I’d rather run in the cold than the heat,” Lowery said.

Tomorrow is the best chance all season to watch the cross country teams in action. Como Park, located right by the State Fairgrounds, is easily accessible by heading north up Lexington Avenue. The men will race at 2:00 p.m. and the women will follow at 3:00 p.m.

“Folks should come,” Meyer said. “It’s unlike any race you’ll ever see.” We’d love to have you there.