Scots Cross Country to battle for limited spots
The Monmouth College men’s and women’s cross country teams will be on familiar footing as they vie for a few exclusive spots this weekend at the NCAA Midwest Regional at Saukie Golf Course in Rock Island.
It will be the second time on the course for the Fighting Scots, who ran there in September. The layout is similar to the course Monmouth ran two weeks ago at the Midwest Conference Championships. The relatively flat 8K course for the men and 6K course for the women could produce some fast times.
“It’s probably a 4 or 5 on a scale of 10,” said coach Roger Haynes of the course difficulty. “There aren’t any significant hills, and it has good footing the entire way. We’ve run well there in the past and we hope to do so again.”
The Scots aren’t the only ones who hope to run well. Only two teams are guaranteed to advance to next weekend’s NCAA National Championships in Waverly, Iowa. The number of team and individual qualifiers can expand based on the strength of the field.
“Normally, our region is one of the strongest in the nation,” reported Haynes. “It usually expands to four teams and seven individuals not part of the qualifying teams.”
That could give a few Scots an opening.
Senior Mary Kate Beyer has been the Scots’ top female this season and is bidding to become the first Monmouth woman to advance to nationals three times. If Beyer can attain that goal, she’ll join the men’s Dan Schisler as the only Scots runners with three national qualifications.
A pair of other women – Rachel Bowden and Aron Jackson – have also trained well and have high expectations. They also know that every position counts. Katie Staab, a senior last season, missed the national meet by one position.
“Rachel has expectations to run well,” said Haynes. “I expect she and Aron will run well at the meet. Rachel is in much the same position as Katie last year. I think Rachel has higher expectations for herself this season.”
High expectations aren’t limited to the women’s field. Senior Geoff Bird has led the men most of the season and is showing no signs of letting up now.
“Geoff has pointed his entire year at this race,” said Haynes. “He was definitely motivated for the conference meet. I think he wants to challenge himself against the best guys in our regional. He’s done the work and the taper. He’ll be ready.”
If Bird can advance out of the regional, he’ll be the first Monmouth man to do so since Zach Barr’s back-to-back national qualifications in 2003 and 2004.
Monmouth’s women ran to a 13th-place finish last season, but would like to be a top 10 team this time around. The men are hoping to finish in the upper half of the 40-team field.
“A top 10 would get us some consideration nationally,” said Haynes of the women’s team. “I feel the men should be able to place in the upper half.”
The Scots will find out if their goals will be realized when the meet begins Saturday at 11 a.m. with the men’s race. The women will run at noon.