Adidas Wisconsin cross country preview
By Gus Margiotta
The Northern Arizona University (NAU) men and women’s cross-country teams will have their hands full come Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course for the fourth annual Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison.
The No. 18 nationally-ranked men’s squad will be facing its fiercest competition to date. The hosting University of Wisconsin Badgers enters the meet with the No. 1 team in the country. Over 45 teams are slated to participate, 19 of which are nationally ranked. The men will partake in the 8 kilometer race, featuring seven of the top-10 ranked teams in the nation and five teams in the top-5 of the nation: No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 3 Brigham Young University, No. 4 University of Oklahoma and Iona College and the University of Portland, who are tied for fifth.
“The reason we go there [Adidas Invite] is to be competitive and try to beat some teams from outside of our region,” said the director of track and field and cross-country,Eric Heins. “This is our chance to see how we stack up against the top 3-4 teams in the country.”
The men’s team will be led by junior transfers Matt McElroy and Brian Shrader and former Gatorade Boys National Runner of the Year, freshman Futsum Zienasellassie .
“A lot of good teams are going to be out there,” McElroy said. “Taking the win or even taking a second would just be a perfect day for us, depending on the conditions and everything that happens on that day.”
Last year’s race was won by the host school, Wisconsin. NAU, led by 2012 London Olympian senior Diego Estrada who placed third individually, took the eighth place finish.
The Jacks come in to the Adidas Invite on a high-note, notching a winning performance by the men and a tie for second by the women at the Pac-12 Preview Elite Invitational, hosted by UCLA in Santa Clarita, Calif.
The women’s team is coming into the Wisconsin Invite knowing this meet could be huge for the upcoming championship season. Led by seniors Rochelle Kanuho, Caroline Hogardh and Anges Laurent, the Lumberjacks hope to improve on last year’s 26th place finish. NAU hopes to also gain valuable race experience for freshmen Melanie Townsend and Rolonda Jumbo at Wisconsin.
Heins said that a sound race plan and the ability to overcome race jitters will be key for Lumberjacks in this weekend’s contest, especially with such a large number of high quality teams.
“On the women’s side, . . . if we can get close to that top 20 mark or go below 20 that’s going to be huge for the girls heading into the championship part of the season,” Heins said.
The women will step to the starting line at 10 a.m. MST and the men will toe the starting line at 10:45 a.m. MST. Fans wishing to watch the Lumberjacks compete this weekend can view the race on their computer at www.flotrack.com.