After a one week stint without a meet, the men and women cross-country teams will be returning at the Roy Griak Invitational Saturday at Minnesota.
“We’ve had some really good workouts,” said head coach Matt Kaczor. “Yeah, I believe you have to train hard, but more importantly, you have to train smart. We’re working on closing that gap in our pack.”
In the hopes of sealing a conference title later on in the season, the team has put a lot of work into tightening up the packs. Kaczor hopes to have the one through five runners within 42 seconds, with six and seven not far behind. While the latter two don’t actually score in a meet, they are crucial in pushing back other teams.
“As a team, we want to do as well as possible,” said sophomore Nate Ghena. “We want our packs to move forward as well and tighten the gap between third runner and fourth and fifth runners.”
Ghena, junior Ethan Lievense, and Spencer Nousain form the front pack. At Griak, Kaczor will be putting Sean Kelly in uniform for the first time this season, hopefully allowing him to fill up that crucial fourth slot and leading the second pack.
“This meet will have 15 ranked teams, so it’s pretty big,” Lievense said. “It’s also one of the hilliest courses, so I’m not really looking at time. I’d just like to be in the best place possible to help the team.”
According to Kaczor, a top 15 against the difficult ranked competition would be terrific. CMU has achieved a 13th position in the Great Lakes region rankings. The team is also sitting in third in the MAC, behind Miami (Ohio) and Akron.
“If we can close that gap in our pack,” Kaczor said. “Then we could have a conference title. We might even be a top 10 regional team, and could qualify for nationals.”
The women had a significant presence at their previous race, the Spartan Invitational. Senior Krista Parks looks to continue her already strong season.
“I plan on improving my time from last year’s meet by 20-30 seconds,” Parks said. “I’ve been running a lot faster in these last few races than I have last year.”
Sophomore Kelly Schubert came in right behind Parks at Michigan State. Throughout this season, Schubert has been trying to keep up with Parks.
“I plan to stick with Krista, and I hope the rest of the team can stick with us in a pack,” Schubert said. “Time-wise, I’d like to be close to where I was at the Spartan Invitational.”
Kaczor was happy with the team’s confidence, especially Schubert’s.
“There’s a lot of confidence out of Schubert. She’s really been pushing Krista, and Krista needs that kind of help,” Kaczor said. “She can’t run up front alone.”
If the team is able to rope their runners closer together, then Kaczor predicts they’re capable of being a top three team in the Mid-American Conference and a top ten team in the region.