Friday, October 17, 2008

Team looks to qualify for first time at Pre-Nationals

Issue date: 10/17/08

By Anthony Fenech
Staff Reporter

The women's cross country team faces its biggest challenge yet at NCAA Pre-Nationals on Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

The 6K meet features many of the best teams is women's cross country - including about 20 of 30 ranked teams - and is a welcome big-meet challenge for a team that's entering the final stretch of the season.

"We're really excited that we have a chance to compete against some really good schools," said senior Amanda Rudert. "It will be a good chance to see where we're at."

The Chippewas, who have yet to qualify for a Nationals meet, will compete against 41 other teams on the same course Nationals takes place.

They hope to improve their chances of receiving a return ticket to Terre Haute on Nov. 24, said coach Karen Lutzke.

With a good performance, the team will boost its prospects of earning an at-large bid after the Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 15.

The Nationals field is made up of first- and second-place teams in each region. The remaining bids are awarded at-large to the third and fourth-place teams that beat the highest number of Nationals qualifiers.

This stage provides an opportunity to beat many of those teams.

"It's almost more competitive than Nationals," Lutzke said. "You have teams that are really good that might fall through due to running bad at the regional meet, so in a sense, this meet is almost more competitive because people know they have to run well to have a chance to run at Nationals."

Seniors Michelle Diverio and Rudert believe the team can draw on its Oct. 3 race at Notre Dame for experience and confidence.

"It was a confidence booster, showing us we can run on the same course as those ranked teams," Diverio said. "We've had really positive attitude and everyone's been working hard."

Rudert echoed those thoughts.

"We're thriving in the big meets more than we have in the past and our confidence is higher," she said.

Lutzke will take 11 runners to race on a course she feels is geared more towards strength than speed, not entirely flat but with rolling hills.

After two weeks of rest and training and after what she called a "great workout" on Wednesday, Lutzke is confident about tomorrow's race.

"We're trying to beat as many teams as we can," she said. "I know we're ready."

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