The Central Michigan men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete Friday during the Great Lakes Regional in an attempt to secure a spot in the NCAA championships.
Both races will take place at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course – a familiar course for the Chippewas after it hosted the Badger Opener on Sept. 7.
The women will compete in a 6k race at 1 p.m., while the men will take off at 2:15 p.m. for a 10k race.
Director of Cross Country Willie Randolph said he is looking forward to the challenge this week and is focused on sticking to the season-long game plan.
“We are strongest at the end of the year, and we have been working on our strengths,” he said. “It’s important for the team to be patient and remain strong. If we can do that, the team will do well.”
The men’s team is coming off a runner-up finish at the Mid-American Conference Championships two weeks ago. The men are ranked 10th in the USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region poll, looking to improve on their seventh place finish last season at the Great Lakes Regional meet.
Sophomore Kyle Stacks and senior Jason Drudge will be CMU’s top two runners competing for the men along with senior Matt Lutzke, junior Nathan Huff, sophomore Ben Wynsma and redshirt freshman Nate Ghena.
The women will send out seniors Veronica Garcia and Maddie Ribant, juniors Krista Parks and Shelby Thren, redshirt freshmen Alyssa Dyer and Jacquee Overbeek and true freshmen Bailey Parmelee, Brooke Morgan and Kelly Schubert.
Two weeks ago the women finished fourth in a field of 12 at the MAC Championships and are ranked 13th in the USTFCCC Great Lakes Region. Last season, they finished eighth at the Great Lakes Regional.
Parks, Garcia and Ribant are the lone returners from the 2011 regional team.
The Great Lakes Regional meet always boasts top-level talent and this season is no different. No. 12 Michigan and No. 20 Indiana will be among the men’s teams competing, while No. 6 Michigan, No. 11 Michigan State and No. 18 Toledo will be running in the women’s race.
Randolph said he knows it will be a challenge but remains optimistic on his team’s chances of earning an NCAA championship spot.
“If we can have the men finish in the top five and the women finish in the top eight, that would be great,” Randolph said. “Both teams have to be in the top three for sure to get into the NCAA’s. It’s extremely important for us to stay with the pack and stay competitive. You can’t be too fast, too soon. Pace is important. Right now, the team is in automatic mode; we just have to go out there and compete.”
In order for each team to qualify for the NCAA Championships, they will need to finish in the top two in the region. A finish between third or fourth could result in an at-large bid for each. Individuals can secure spots in the NCAA Championships by finishing among the top-seven runners who are not members of a qualifying team.
Randolph’s motto is something he has been emphasizing to his team all season and it remains true today.
“I’ve been telling the team all year, if you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best and our region has some of the best teams in the country,” he said.