DEKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois cross country team returns to the course this week when they run at the 40th annual Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational in downtown Chicago.
The women’s 5K run starts at 11:45 a.m. in the Montrose Beach Harbor, as the Huskies reach the midway point of the regular season.
“It’s our first time racing in three weeks, so we have to get back into things,” said NIU head coach Greg Hipp. “This is when the more serious part of the season starts. It’s a pretty big meet – 50-plus teams – so we have to be aggressive off the line and get ourselves in good position early because the course narrows quickly. I just want to see how they react to such a large field, which is very different than the races we have been in so far.”
The Huskies come into the meet with a ton of momentum after two successful meets to open the season. After taking first at the UIC Opener, Northern took third place at the NIU Open behind emerging Big Ten power Northwestern and Marquette. NIU easily defeated DePaul, UIC and Chicago State in the final standings.
Individually, Courtney Oldenburg set the school record on a 5K course when she ran 18:07.81 to finish third overall, while Ali Olson and Leah Raffety also ran times that rank third and fourth in NIU history.
This week, NIU enters their first “big” meet of the season, with 54 teams – including 13 Division I schools – comprising the field. Programs set to compete at the meet include the host Ramblers, Purdue, Southern Illinois and UAB, along with MAC rivals Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan.
The meet takes part in one of the Midwest’s most interesting courses, as it is situated between the Lake Michigan shoreline and downtown Chicago.
“The course at Loyola has a unique atmosphere,” Hipp said. “It’s right there on the beach. It’s maybe not the greatest cross country course in the world, but it is certainly one of the neatest spots to have a cross country course. It’s kind of cool seeing Lake Michigan there on your right and the city just behind you when you run on the course.”
“We enjoy the atmosphere. There is a lot of energy at this meet and its’ a fun place to run. It’s definitely a good day on our schedule.”