After capping off their respective regular seasons with spectacular finishes at the Indiana State Pre-Nationals Invitational, Georgetown’s cross-country teams will head to the Big East Cross-Country Championships in Indianapolis, Ind., on Friday to kick-start the postseason. The Hoyas will compete with the help of key runners on both the men’s and women’s teams that sat out previous races.
Both teams will enter the race after receiving significant bumps in the national rankings last week. Following its first-place finish in Terre Haute, Ind., the women’s team rose from being ranked fourth in the country to second, surging ahead of the previous No. 1, and current No. 4, University of Michigan.
The men’s team currently holds the No. 16 rank after being unranked from the second week of its season onward.
“Whatever number we’re ranked at, we don’t do anything [differently],” Women’s Cross-Country Head Coach Michael Smith said. “I think all that number means [is] that we’re a really good team and people believe that, as do we.”
The Big East championship will give the women’s team an opportunity to face off against other squads that have recently won the national championship. Georgetown, No. 24 Villanova and Providence have won four of the last five NCAA championships, making the Big East one of the competitive women’s cross-country conferences.
To help race against the stiff competition that the Hoyas expect to face, Georgetown will return several of its top runners. Senior Katrina Coogan, who was the top runner for the Hoyas at pre-nationals, will lead her team at the Big East championship. The veteran runner enters the conference race having won the Big East Player of the Week award for the second time this season. If Coogan’s race is anything like her third-place finish in Terre Haute, Georgetown will be in prime position to win the Big East championship after earning second place last season.
“[Katrina]’s in great contention to be able to win the Big East conference individually,” Smith said. “That’s definitely a goal of hers.”
Adding to Coogan’s leadership and experience will be junior Samantha Nadel, who will be competing for Georgetown for the first time this season. Nadel finished in fifth place overall at last year’s Big East championship and was the second runner to finish for the Hoyas. She is expected to make a significant impact to an already successful squad.
“[Sam is] someone we can count on to give 100 percent every time she steps out onto the court or to the track,” Coogan said. “She’s definitely going to make an impact on the team scoring-wise.”
Just as the women’s team is looking to beat some formidable teams at the Big East championship, so will the men’s team look to improve upon its fourth-place finish at the meet last season while competing against No. 7 Villanova and No. 17 Providence.
After placing third at pre-nationals, the Hoyas are looking to build on their upward trend this season. The team’s pack-running strategy, which involves the athletes trying to reduce the spread among their finishing times as much as possible in order to lower the team score, will be the key to its success.
“I think if we just continue to perfect that style of racing that, just like at pre-nationals, we’ll be happy with the results,” Men’s Distance Coach Brandon Bonsey said. “We’ll continue to work on that and let the results fall where they are, but we’re going to follow our own racing strategy, not let what else is going on take away from what we’re trying to do.”
The top runners from the Hoyas’ Pre-Nationals meet will be making the trip to Indianapolis, including junior Ahmed Bile and sophomore Jonathan Green. Both runners finished among the top 30 runners at Terre Haute.
The men’s team will also have graduate student Brian King, who finished in 13th place overall at last year’s Big East championship.
The Hoyas will have two special additions to its upcoming roster in seniors Ryan Gil and Collin Leibold. Neither runner has raced in a meet this season, but both runners were instrumental in Georgetown’s third place finish at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships.
“It’ll be their first race so you never know exactly what to expect if someone hasn’t raced before, but at the same time the training and their prior racing experience before this year indicates that they’re ready to run right with that pack of guys that were up at Pre-Nationals,” Bonsey said. “Those are two big additions to the team and we’re excited to have them out there.”
The Big East Championship will begin at 11 a.m. and will be broadcast live on the Big East Digital Network.