NCC women’s cross country faces tough battle in CCIW
By Rob Wollenzien For Sun-Times Media August 25, 2011 9:34PM
The North Central cross country team runs in a pack during last year’s CCIW championships. | NCC photo
Updated: November 30, 2011 12:22AM
The North Central College women’s cross country team should be good this year, but just how good remains unclear.
Coach Mahesh Narayanan’s Cardinals don’t hold their first practice until Labor Day weekend — one week before their first meet of the season. His team comes off a 2010 campaign that saw NCC capture its second consecutive College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin title. That feat equals the team’s best under Narayanan’s tenure.
“We do not have a set lineup, since we have not practiced yet for the season,” Narayanan says.
Seniors Kala Bingham, Alicia Zimmerman, Kate Lueders and Amy Schwent, and juniors Krista Cota, Lauren Hooks and Amanda Marek all return. Those seven all figure to race in the team’s Top 10.
Bingham, Schwent, Cota and Marek all will be team captains for the 2011 season.
One wildcard for the team could be sophomore Jacki McKown. Last fall, she won the CCIW open race. McKown could emerge as a varsity contributor at some point during the season.
This much is clear: The CCIW is shaping up to be ultra-competitive once again this year. Narayanan lists Augustana, Carthage, Illinois Wesleyan University, Elmhurst and Wheaton as potential contenders.
“For us, we want to be fighting for that top spot,” he says. “Our conference has many great individuals and it can be a three- to five-team battle under any given circumstance — you see many heightened performances throughout our conference from individuals and teams.”
Once they get past the CCIW, the Cardinals will have to contend with the venerable Midwest Regional. Augustana will host the meet this year. Teams come from Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri to compete in the regional.
The Cardinals took sixth there in ’10.
“We have one of the better regionals in the country,” Narayanan says. “The Midwest Regional has great tradition of performing at the national level. You can see as many as eight strong teams in the regional competition. The depth of this region is the strength.”
The Cardinals open Sept. 9 at the Aurora Spartan Invitational at Oakhurst Forest Preserve.