Women's cross country seeks national championship
Fresh off a win from the NCAA West Regional meet last Friday, the No. 2 Arizona women’s cross country team will run in the NCAA Championships on Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.
Running for Arizona will be sophomore Kayla Beattie, junior Stephanie Bulder, sophomore Molly Callahan, junior Nicci Corbin, junior Hanna Peterson, senior Elvin Kibet, freshman Maria Larsson and senior Erin Menefee.
For the team to come up big at nationals, Arizona will need a good fifth runner finish, confidence and a focused yet relaxed mindset.
“As far as five, six, seven, we’re just going to try to fill that gap that we’ve been talking about all year — really see if we can bring the number five runner up closer to our four,” assistant coach Mo Huber said. “It’s not just going to be four runners. It’s going to be that fifth runner and the sixth runner to really step up and to help the team win the national championship.”
In the West Regional, the fourth and fifth runners had a huge gap. The fourth scored runner for Arizona was Corbin, with a 12th place finish and a time of 19:54. The fifth and final scored runner was Bulder with a 45th place finish and a time of 20:39. Win aside, closing the gap further could help Arizona score lower and finish higher in its final meet.
“I’m hoping that our five, six, seven can really push forward and place as high as we can so we can win that national championship,” said Menefee, who came in 58th place with a time of 20:49.
The women expressed confidence after their last win.
“Everyone did really well, and I think that we are more focusing on the kind of mental aspect of it,” Menefee said, “racing with confidence, and knowing that we didn’t need to do anything super special.”
The women’s team beat second-place Stanford by 10 points at the NCAA Division I West Regional.
“We’re in one of the toughest regions in the country, so to win the regional, that means a lot for the confidence,” said Larsson, who took 10th place in the West Regional with a time of 19:43. “We’re excited to see what we can do come nationals.”
A calm environment helped the runners perform at regionals and could help them race well at the national meet.
“We were really relaxed, so I didn’t find anything that was particularly challenging,” Larsson said.
Huber said she and the coaching staff stress relaxation before a meet by telling the players not to put too much pressure on themselves.
The team took it easy this week.
“They know they have more left,” Huber said. “They were patient this last weekend. Just save whatever they have left for the big dance.”
The women’s team finished in sixth place at last year’s NCAA Championships. The program’s best finish was in 1980, when the women’s team took second place.
“As a team, we’re trying to keep the emotions in check and not get too overwhelmed about it, and run how we’ve been running the whole season,” Menefee said.
The team will face off against the now No. 1-ranked Providence, which rose in the rankings after winning its last meet at the Northeast Regional Championships.
Other teams competing include Arkansas, Butler, Colorado, Dartmouth, Florida State, Georgetown, Iowa State, Michigan, New Mexico, Stanford and others.
The women will work for a top finish in their last meet at the national championship.
“We’re just really looking forward to it and really hoping to do something big,” Menefee said.
— Follow Brittney Smith @BrittSmith14