Courtesy of Ohio State athletic department
The Ohio State men’s and women’s cross country teams are hoping to send multiple runners to the national championship meet.
The Buckeyes teams will travel to Madison, Wisc., for Friday’s NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships. The two teams have varied expectations when it comes to sending runners to nationals.
The women’s squad has a number of runners that are capable of competing at the national level, including two that went to the national meet last year.
Senior runner Tori Brink and sophomore runner Nicole Hilton both qualified individually in 2011 and are attempting to repeat that accomplishment in 2012.
They will, however, have to get past what seems like a tough field.
The meet will include Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Michigan State, who finished first and second at the conference championships and are nationally ranked.
Women’s coach Khadevis Robinson said that junior runner Meredith Wagner and sophomore runner Michelle Thomas are also in the hunt for an individual qualifying spot at the regional meet.
While the pressure of big tournaments can be intense, both women said via email that they try their best not to focus “too much” on the event in the days prior. But on game day, their entire focus is squarely on the meet.
Freshman Lexi Aughenbaugh, who has been the Buckeyes’ No. 3 runner behind Wagner and Thomas in the Buckeyes’ last four meets, is still dealing with a nagging injury, but the team as a whole is prepared.
“I think they’re excited. I think they’re ready to go,” Robinson said.
Without redshirt senior runner Chris Fallon, who suffered a hyper-extended knee and stress fracture at the Wisconsin Invitational, the men’s team might find itself relying solely on senior runner Donny Roys to advance to the national meet.
“We’re optimistic that the young man is going to have a breakout race,” coach Brice Allen said of Roys.
Roys was second-team All-Big Ten this season – this weekend’s meet represents his final opportunity to advance to the National Championship meet.
Fallon finished 22nd at the qualifying tournament last year and was an All-Region selection, but his season was ended following a pileup last month in Madison. Barring the injury, Allen said he thought Fallon had a shot at making nationals.
The number of individuals that make the national tournament is flexible or a “soft number,” as Allen said, but it is usually about 15.
Allen said Fallon would have only needed to improve by about 10 spots this year to qualify.
“I think that the progression of 10 places from one year to the next is pretty reasonable,” Allen said.
The rest of OSU men’s runners at the tournament are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
“With the next six athletes being freshmen, I would be optimistic to think that we’d have another individual qualifier,” Allen said. “What I would hope for is that we put a group of guys in the top 40.”
Both teams will run at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet in Madison, Wisc., on Friday. The women’s race begins at 1 p.m. and the men run at 2:15 p.m.