Ohio State history will be made for the women’s cross country team, and the men’s team hopes to continue its hot streak in the NCAA Championship meet today.
The women’s team has never competed in the NCAA Championship meet in its 28-year history — until now.
“[Making the meet] is one of the main reasons I took this job,” coach Chris Neal said. “Ohio State is the best university in the country, and it should be represented at every major championship.”
The Buckeyes are not satisfied with making the meet. They want to make their presence felt on the national stage.
“This is another race, and we want to be competitive,” junior Jordan Jennewine said. “We realistically believe that, as a team, we can place anywhere from 17th to 25th.”
Finishing that high will not be an easy feat with the talent pool they will compete against. But the team has already competed on the Terra Haute, Ind., course earlier this season at the NCAA Pre-Nationals, finishing 11th out of 37 teams.
The team needs a great performance from every runner to have the showing it desires.
“We will be depending on all seven of the girls running well, but we will especially need good runs from our top group,” Neal said. “Going into this meet, I would expect [Jennewine] and Sarah [Foster] to once again lead the way. They have been up front all year, and we need them to show up one more time.”
The men’s team has been strong all season, except at the NCAA Pre-Nationals earlier this season, which took place at the same course they run today.
The team had a lot of difficulties during the Pre-Nationals. Even senior Jeff See, recently named 2009 Great Lakes Athlete of the Year, had a bad meet at this course.
The Buckeyes are trying to put that meet out of their minds heading into today, focusing only on the success of their last meet, a second place finish at the Great Lakes Regional meet.
“At the very beginning of this season, we had goals of top three at conference. We finished second, qualifying the team for [the NCAA Championship meet] and placing in the top 20 at [the NCAA Championship meet],” coach Robert Gary said. “It will be imperative for our three to seven guys to run like they did at conference.”
The key to their success will likely be a combination of higher placing from their three to seven runners and excellent runs from See and sophomore Taylor Williams.
“Jeff See has an excellent opportunity to finish as an All-American, and Taylor Williams may be able to be close,” Gary said. “If our next three scorers finish inside top 100, we would have had an awesome performance to end the season.”
Today could determine the future of both programs with recruits and national prestige on the line. Great finishes would mean a step in the right direction and a satisfying end to two successful seasons.