The Loyola men’s and women’s cross-country teams are set to head to Bradley University in Peoria Nov. 9 for the third time in five weeks — this time, to compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional.
The Ramblers are coming off a second-place finish at the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship. Assistant cross-country coach Alan Peterson said he’s happy with how his team performed at the championships. First-year Claire Hengesbaugh and sophomore Mimi Reimers finished sixth and seventh at the meet, something Peterson said he wasn’t expecting.
“[Hengesbaugh] came out and absolutely crushed MVCs and [Reimers] had a really good race,” Peterson said. “For those two to be in the top seven was phenomenal. I’m looking for those two to really step up their game again when it comes to the regional meet.”
With 35 women’s teams racing — each with seven runners — the number of runners has more than doubled from the MVC Championship. Having more people makes the race a lot easier, according to Peterson.
“Those extra bodies are going to help especially our back end, our four-five really kind of have more people to run with and more people to run down,” Peterson said. “The closer we can get the four and five to our two and three, the better we’re going to do.”
Last season, the women’s team finished 16th with a total of 414 points. This season, Peterson said he wants his team to improve on last year’s place.
“As a team, on a good day, I think we can be anywhere from ninth to 12th [place],” Peterson said. “On an OK day, probably around top 15 or so, which would still be really good.”
Redshirt senior Lindsey Brewis missed qualifying for NCAA Championships last year by three places. In each region, the top two teams automatically get a bid to the national meet. The individuals are selected from the top four runners that aren’t on a qualifying team. This year, she said she’s hoping to be one of the individuals awarded a spot.
“I think last year, I wasn’t as drilled down and I didn’t think I could actually do it until after the fact, when I realized how close I was,” Brewis said. “This year, I’m a lot more driven, I’m a lot more focused on getting to nationals.”
If Brewis qualifies for the championship, she will be the first Loyola individual runner since 2014 to make it and the first female runner since 2012.
At the MVC Championship race, the men finished in eighth place. Assistant cross country coach Mircea Bogdan said he wasn’t satisfied with the place, but it didn’t upset him.
“I think we risked more than we needed and that cost us a better performance than we ended up getting in the end,” Bogdan said. “I think eighth place is not a true reflection of how good we really should be.”
At conference, the team tried to start out with the front pack, according to first-year Stephen Pipilas, but the pace was faster than what they were used to, so they ended up falling behind. With conference behind them, Pipilas said the team plans to go back to their old way of racing.
“Our plan now is to go out slower instead of fast because that is what we are comfortable with and we know we can thrive from that and just keep moving up in the race,” Pipilas said.
The past two seasons the men’s team finished in 17th place. In 2016, they finished 17th out of 26th with 453 points, and in 2017 they finished in 17th out of 28th with 455. This year, Bogdan said he hopes the Ramblers can move up in the rankings, even if it’s only by one place.
“We’ll race smarter, and we’ll probably take precaution to be very strategical in our approach,” Bogdan said. “I’m looking forward [to it]. I think it will be a great regional meet for us. We do have the potential to do better than the previous years. At least we can defend and finish 17th or better, which I think is in our means.”
Pipilas said he wants to run the 10-kilometer race in 31:50, which is a similar pace to his 8-kilometer goal. Bogdan said he expects Pipilas to perform well at the regional meet since he has been consistent all season.