Nov. 6, 2012
• NCAA Great Lakes Regional Information
MADISON, Wis. – As the Wisconsin women’s cross country team returns to the Thomas Zimmer Championship Course to host the 2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Friday, UW head coach Jim Stintzi has one goal for his team.
“We have to be in the top four to advance, so that's a real simple thing for us to know what we have to do,” Stintzi said. “That's the goal this weekend, to be somewhere in the top four.”
A top-four finish is exactly what the Badgers will need if they are going to advance to the 2012 NCAA Championship in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 17.
Wisconsin punched its ticket to the NCAA championship for the first time since 2008 by virtue of their fourth-place team finish at last year’s NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
As Stintzi explained, the process for earning an at-large bid to the NCAA championship is complicated. It takes into account finishes from meets earlier in the season as well as the regional event.
“There are 33 teams that will be here from the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio,” Stintzi said. “Two of those teams in each race, men's and women's, advance automatically to the NCAA championships. And then there are nine regions across the country, and then there will be 13 more teams that will be selected at-large.”
Qualifying for the NCAA championship may be a complicated process, but according to Stintzi, the formula for success on Friday is simple.
“Running in general isn't very complicated, but this is even simpler than normal. Our top three have to do what they've been doing, and fourth and fifth have to run the way they ran earlier in the year,” he said.
Wisconsin’s top three runners, senior Ashley Beutler, senior Hanna Knurr and sophomore Gabrielle Anzalone, have to race like they have the entire season.
The trio pushed the Badgers to a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championship in East Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 28.
Both Beutler and Anzalone earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, with Beutler finishing in sixth and Anzalone taking seventh. Knurr recorded her best Big Ten finish and crossed the finish line in 16th place.
“Our top three at Big Ten ran exceptionally well,” Stintzi said. “But we had that gap again that we had at the adidas meet. That kind of cost us a chance for the top three at the Big Ten championships.”
The fourth-and fifth-place runners will have to step up and close the first-to-fifth time gap if the Badgers are to accomplish Stintzi’s goal.
“Workouts indicate, and our earlier races indicate, that we can bring the gap down to 40 or 50 seconds,” Stintzi said. “If we do that, we'll be fine. If we don't do that, we'll be on the outside looking in.”
Friday’s formula for success may be simple, but closing the gap is a complicated process that involves strategy.
“The two teams that we really need to be concerned about are Toledo and Notre Dame,” he said. “Those two teams, if we beat either one of those teams, they'll help advance us to the NCAA championships. Complicated process, but that's the way it works.”
When the Badgers take the line at noon on Friday, Wisconsin’s fourth-place and fifth-place runners will know exactly what they have to do in order to contribute to the team’s success.
“Our fourth and fifth runners need to run with their fourth and fifth runners, flat out, period,” Stintzi said. “I think we'll be at least with them or ahead of them through three runners. They simply need to find those people and be close to them, run with them, compete with them.”
As for who that supporting cast will be, Stintzi isn’t exactly sure.
Freshman Emma-Lisa Murphy, junior Theresa Selestow, junior Lavinia Jurkiewicz and junior Kiah Ehrke have all filled the role this season.
“I really think that any one of those four runners can match up with the people they need to match up with,” Stintzi said. “Workouts would indicate it. Races would indicate earlier in the year. They simply have to do it.”
Friday’s meet will be the first time Wisconsin has played host to the NCAA Great Lakes Regional event since 1974, and the Badgers are ready to take advantage of being at home.
“We're healthy, ready to go, and looking forward to it,” Stintzi said.