The Maneater

Lutzow looks to provide depth as women’s cross-country enters postseason

Coach Marc Burns: “I think in these last few weeks you’re going to really see her go crazy.”

Mizzou cross-country coach Marc Burns watched the 2016 Illinois State Cross Country Championships at Detweiller Park in Peoria, Illinois, and he knew he had found something.

Burns saw freshman Jenna Lutzow pull away from the field as a senior at Belvidere North High School with a winning time of 16:35. Burns became excited about how she could contribute to Missouri’s women’s cross-country team in her freshman season.

“Anything under 17 minutes is really getting after it and she ran 16:36,” Burns said. “So I think we felt like she had the ability to make an impact right away, so it’s really awesome when you see it happening.”

Lutzow has been making an instant impact in her first season with the Tigers. She was named SEC Freshman of the Week after an eighth-place finish in her debut at the JK Gold Classic. She set a new personal record of 21:56 in her 24th-place finish in the 6K race at the Cowboy Jamboree this year and has finished in the Tigers’ top five in three of their four meets this season.

Lutzow is happy to be contributing early for the Tigers and hopes to continue her success throughout the rest of the season.

“My goal is just maintaining [my performance] there,” Lutzow said. “I’m just happy that I can be a part of our team to begin with, but just to make sure that my times keep getting faster and faster and that I do what I need to do for the team.”

Coming into the season, Lutzow’s wasn’t sure where she would fit into the team and was more focused on improving throughout the year.

“I had no idea where I was gonna come in at,” Lutzow said. “I was just more focused on [it being my] freshman year, and my goal was just to get stronger and see where I’m at. I had no idea I would have this much impact on the team, so it’s just really awesome that I get to be here.”

Lutzow’s performance will be vital for the Tigers as they enter championship season. In cross-country, five runners score for each team. The total score for a team is the sum of the places by the top five runners. The sum creates a total score for a team and the team with the lowest score wins.

Missouri has low scorers at the top of the lineup with seniors Karissa Schweizer, Jamie Kempfer and Megan Cunningham, but the key for the Tigers’ postseason success will be a consistent presence to round out the scoring in the four and five spots.

Burns said the bottom of the lineup will be important as Missouri goes into the postseason and feels Lutzow can step into that role.

“Obviously we’re scoring four with Karissa; she’s going to be a low [place],” Burns said. “Now Megan [Cunningham] is running really well, we’re running Jamie [Kempfer] back in the lineup, [so] that four-five becomes really important. Now the question is if that four-five comes around, and Jenna Lutzow is coming big-time. She is really coming on strong, so we feel really good about that.”

Burns said he has been impressed with Lutzow’s quick transition in her first year and acknowledged that making the move to college can be difficult for a lot of athletes.

“I think that she’s come in with a great attitude as she’s come to this transition,” Burns said. “I think her poise and her ability to adapt to that new environment has been really impressive. We know she’s talented, but not everybody makes that transition very easily. She’s done a really good job of managing that transition to college life.”

Lutzow has noticed a little bit of a difference with college races but said that the racing itself has not changed.

“The traveling is different,” Lutzow said. “When you get to the meet there are a bunch of colleges and it seems more professional, but once you’re on the line, it feels the same.”

The strategy Burns has used this season has been to bring Lutzow along slowly throughout workout groups as she transitions from high school to college. Burns said he has been pleased that Lutzow is trusting the coaching staff as they handle her progression in workout groups.

“She’s been very patient; she hasn’t freaked out,” Burns said. “She’s just trusting us. We’re just slowly bringing her through the training groups.”

Burns said he thinks that trust will be rewarded in the coming weeks and predicts Lutzow will break out.

“I think in these last few weeks you’re going to really see her go crazy,” Burns said.

Edited by Joe Noser | jnoser@themaneater.com

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