Excited and nervous is the response you get if you ask women’s cross country head coach Barbara Hartwig how her team is feeling right now.

Coming off a relaxing break from running the Alumni Fun Run for Meliora Weekend, the team is now looking forward to their string of championship races. The Alumni Fun Run was a short, two-mile race starting and ending at Fauver Stadium.

The team members either ran or volunteered and its 50 participants included former UR athletes and their siblings.

Currently, the Yellowjackets are now focusing on the University Athletic Association Championship Race on Saturday at Carnegie Mellon University.

The Yellowjackets have good reason to be nervous. This is their first championship meet of the season – no one has ever raced at Carnegie Mellon before and the only teams from the UAA that the Yellowjackets have competed against this season are Carnegie Mellon and Case Western Reserve University.

Other teams in the UAA are looking particularly strong this year as Washington University in St. Louis, University of Chicago and Emory University are currently ranked in the top 25 teams in the NCAA Division III poll.

“This will be a good test to see where we’re at,” Hartwig said. “It’s almost always a very highly competitive meet. It will be pretty challenging.”

Hartwig has only changed the training schedule slightly so far. The team’s concentrating a little more on speed training than earlier in the season and the longer runs are one to two miles shorter than before, but Hartwig says she’s found that many of her runners do better if mileage is fairly consistent even toward the end of the season.

“You have to gauge it on the athlete that you’re working with,” she said. “Everyone’s excited – we’ve been racing well this far. We have to step it up more for these championship meets. Once you get into the end of the season, it’s exciting and it’s stressful.”

Last year, the team placed fifth out of eight teams, but they hope to do better this year with strong newcomers and experienced runners.

“We need to set our minds on finishing higher and competing very, very well,” Hartwig said. “We have to tighten [our gap time] up even more and be even more aggressive in the first couple of miles because our competition is going to be so strong. We’re going to have to be up to the task.”

The UAA, as always, is very strong this year, with virtually no distinction between the best and worst teams.

“Everyone’s essentially the same, so we have to see who’s on for the day and we hope it’s us,” Hartwig said.

Philbrick can be reached at ephilbrick@campustimes.org.

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