Nov. 15, 2012
MADISON, Wis. -- Step for step, senior Ashley Beutler and sophomore Gabrielle Anzalone have led the Wisconsin women’s cross country team all season. After consistently finishing at the front for the Badgers, the duo will fittingly close out the season together by racing among the nation’s elite at the 2012 NCAA Championship this Saturday in Louisville, Ky.
Beutler and Anzalone’s journey to the championship began when they earned automatic bids for the meet after posting top-10 finishes at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional in Madison last Friday, Nov. 9.
With a time of 20 minutes, 19 seconds, Beutler took sixth place and finished first for Wisconsin. Anzalone clocked in just after Beutler in seventh place, finishing the 6-kilometer course in 20:25.
Running on the national stage is nothing new for the duo. After the team earned an at-large bid to the NCAA championship last season, Beutler crossed the line first for the Badgers with her 107th-place performance. In her first season at Wisconsin, Anzalone took third for UW and finished 127th overall.
A fifth-year senior, Beutler also qualified as part of UW’s team as a freshman in 2008.
As they head to the championship to represent Wisconsin, the teammates can draw comfort off their familiarity with the course. Beutler and Anzalone led the way for the Badgers when they competed on the same E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park course at the Greater Louisville Classic in September. Beutler recorded a 16th-place finish, while Anzalone took 22nd overall.
“Having a race there under my belt is going to help me, because no race is like this one,” Beutler said. “There’s hundreds of girls and they’re all good. I’m definitely going to go in there more calm because I know what to expect.”
In addition to their experience with running on the highly-competitive stage, the pair seems to be peaking at the right time in the season. Beulter and Anzalone not only finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional to earn All-Region honors, but they also both recorded top-10 finishes at the Big Ten championship on Oct. 28 en route to All-Big Ten laurels.
When the duo hits the course at 11 a.m. Saturday, they can take comfort in the fact that they will be racing together. Beutler and Anzalone have finished 1-2 for the Badgers in every meet this season.
“We know where to look for each other in the race, and we know what to expect from the other,” Beutler said. “We have run almost every race within two seconds of each other and, in several of them, we were constantly passing each other.”
As the pair lines up in their last race together, they can rely on their experience, familiarity with the course and each other. The teammates not only provide support, but also keep each other focused on the finish.
“If we’re passing each other, it makes the other person push a little harder,” Beutler said. “It’s a good rivalry.”