Distance members of the track and field team will travel to Bloomington, Ind. for the Gladstein Invitational on Friday with hopes of securing slots at the Mid-American Conference meet.
“We’re taking this meet as an opportunity,” said associate head coach Matt Kaczor. “We’ve entered runners in the 5000-meter and the 3000-meter to try and automatically qualify for the MAC meet.”
The men’s and women’s teams both featured a core of strong distance runners last season, a large number of whom qualified within the first month of competition. Having these qualifications fulfilled early in the season allows time to focus on adding more teammates to the championship meet, where depth is vital for success.
In the men’s 5000m, sophomore Nate Ghena and redshirt freshman Spencer Nousain will represent the Chippewas today. To pass the MAC automatic qualifying mark, they will have to run their 5000-meter race in under 14:53.
“I’m looking forward to this race,” Nousain said. “(Ghena) and I are planning on working together, switching leads, and drafting off each other so that we can walk away feeling confident.”
Come MAC championships, Nousain said he hopes to be a top-4 finisher in the 5K.
On the women’s end, senior Krista Parks, junior Breanne Lesnar and junior Abbey Kelto will be chasing down the 17:33 5K MAC qualification benchmark.
“The MAC auto mark is the ultimate goal for this week,” Lesnar said. “To do that, I’m looking forward to running with and sort of working with (Parks) and (Kelto). I need to find a good pack and work on pacing.”
After coming off of a serious illness last winter, Lesnar hopes to “blow her marks from last season out of the water.”
Senior Ethan Lievense will be the only athlete representing the maroon and gold in the 3K.
“I definitely think I’ll be able to make the qualifier,” Lievense said. “My focus will be on the qualifying time. I don’t care if I run 8:00 or 8:29, so as long as I’m under 8:30.”
For the women, sophomore Alyssa Dyer, redshirt freshman Kelly Schubert and freshman Katie Weiler will compete in the 3000-meter. They must run a faster time than a 9:57 to automatically qualify for the MAC championships.
“Our kids shouldn’t have a hard time hitting the mark, which would give us leeway for the rest of the season to run other events and work on our speed,” Kaczor said. “The more automatic qualifiers we get early on, the more flexibility we have. Plus, it pushes other schools out later on.”
Last week, the Chippewas hosted and competed at the Jack Skoog Invitational. CMU finished far ahead of their competition on both the men and women’s ends. In the women’s mile, Dyer and Schubert came in first and second, and Parks, Lesnar and Weiler finished fifth through seventh, respectively. Lievense, Ghena and Nousain finished as the top-3 in the men’s.
“The mile was difficult, but it felt good. I really needed that confidence booster,” Lievense said. “I’m excited to take the momentum from the Jack Skoog Invitational to some of the other, bigger schools in Indiana. It was great that almost all the guys I was really competing against were from our team. A lot of our upperclassmen are injured, so it was great to see some of the younger guys step up and pick up the slack.”