Women’s cross-country gears up for critical year
Coach Marc Burns: “If we’re healthy and ready to go at the end of the year, this team can compete with anyone in the conference.”
Sep. 09, 2016
The Missouri women’s cross-country team officially began its season Sept. 2 at the Iowa Hawkeye Invitational, but the real test begins Sept. 17, when the team will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, to participate in the Commodore Classic.
The Commodore Classic will be the first time this season Mizzou will send all of its runners out for a race, as only six women ran at Iowa while the rest previewed the course for the NCAA Regional Qualifying Meet, which will be held there in November. The meet will also be the first chance the team will have to race against other Southeastern Conference teams.
Coach Marc Burns said he thinks the team stacks up well against other SEC squads.
“We’re catching the SEC in a year where it’s deep on the women’s side, but we are legitimately one of the top six teams,” he said. “The good news is that I think Arkansas is a pretty heavy favorite and Mississippi State is probably right behind them, but after that I feel like it’s pretty wide open.”
Burns said he felt the team’s preseason No. 6 ranking in the SEC made sense.
“I think [the ranking] is fair based off where we finished last year, but I feel like if we’re healthy and we’re ready to go at the end of the year, this team can compete with anybody in the conference,” he said. “If you’re in the right place at the right time and you’re healthy, anything can happen up front by the end of the year.”
Although the team only features two seniors, Teylar Adelsberger and Nicole Mello, Burns said the team is loaded with leadership, as the majority of its top runners are upperclassmen.
“We really have three seniors [in that] Kaitlyn Fischer is a fourth-year [after] redshirting last year, but Teylar [Adelsberger], Nicole [Mello], Kaelyn [Balch], Ellen [DeTurris], and Karissa [Schweizer] have all been around three or four years,” he said. “There’s a lot of leadership on this team and I feel we’re pretty fortunate that we’re pretty experienced up front.”
Adelsberger said the team’s level of experience has added to a sense of urgency for this season to be a successful one.
“We have a lot of girls that have been here a while, and it’s some girls’ last chance so there are some girls that really want [to reach the NCAA National Championships],” she said. “I think if we all manage to stay healthy and get it together at the end of the year, we can go to Nationals. I know that’s what a lot of people want, and I know we can get top six in the SEC , but I think we can even go in the top four.”
The team will need to race well at the NCAA Qualifying Race, which will be in Iowa City, Iowa, on Nov. 11, in order to accomplish its ultimate goal of earning a spot at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19 in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Adelsberger said she feels the team has been molding together well as a unit.
“I feel like we’re meshing well as a team this year,” she said. “We all want everyone to succeed and we do really well about picking each other up and knowing that ‘it’s not about how I do, it’s about how we all do, so I’m going to do this for my teammates and not for myself,’ should be our main motivator.”
The team has also taken extra steps to build a sense of unity. Adelsberger said this philosophy starts with Burns.
“[Coach] has us running in groups and working on groups, and we’ve done some things outside of practice for team bonding,” she said. “Certain days we can go out and run with whomever we want, so it’s nice because we get a chance to run with everyone on the team and chat.”
Both Burns and Adelsberger stressed the importance of avoiding injuries in order for the team to meet expectations.
“We had potential last year but we got plagued by a lot of injuries; by the end of the year we had only three or four healthy girls,” Adelsberger said. “This year, we have the team, so hopefully we’ll stay healthy.”
No matter what happens, though, Burns said he believes in the talent of his team.
“This is the best team we’ve had in the three years that I’ve been here,” he said.
Edited by Theo DeRosa | firstname.lastname@example.org