MATTHEW VANTRYON | SPORTS EDITOR
Butler’s cross-country teams gained national attention last season with strong finishes at the NCAA Pre-National meet. The women’s team finished third overall en route to finishing third at the national meet in November, while the men nearly cracked the top-10 with an 11th place finish.
But head coach Matt Roe is not thinking about last year.
“We’re excited about this year’s team,” he said. “We don’t spend too much time looking back and we don’t spend too much time looking forward. We’re focused on this weekend and running the best that we can.”
Roe said he expects the women to perform well. He said the men may be hampered by injuries. He declined to discuss specific individuals who may be inactive.
“Our women are ready to run well, and they will perform at a high level,” he said. “They’re training at a high level. Our men have a few injuries, so it’s probably going to be a challenge for us this weekend. But we know we have a few guys in a position to run well.”
Senior Mara Olson ran on the course in Terre Haute twice last season, once at Pre-Nationals and once at the national meet. She finished 23rd overall at the Pre-Nationals. She finished 26th in the national meet, but beat her Pre-Nats time by six seconds. She hopes to replicate her most recent performance this weekend.
“Last year at Pre-Nats was a bit of stinker on my end, but Nationals went really well,” she said. “I’m hoping to emulate the latter race.”
She said the high-profile race is an opportunity to prove herself against the best in the nation. She said she is able to keep her nerves at a minimum.
“Pre-Nationals is always great because you get really high-end competition and you get exposed to a lot of talent. I’m excited to see what I can do against it,” she said. “I’ve been exposed to this for four years now, so I don’t get super nervous. You also learn that these are all humans. Going into it, you know there will be people who can’t deal with the weather, the mud, they’ll be having a tough week. People will make mistakes.”
Olson said the team has bonded between the first meet and this upcoming weekend. She said cohesiveness should lead to a strong performance.
“As a team, we need to perform well in this meet to elevate ourselves to a national level,” she said.”That said, it’s only our second meet, so it’s hard to say what that means in terms of place or time. I think we’ve grown a lot as a team over the last few weeks between our first meet at Griak and this upcoming meet. I think that’s really going to help us have unity when we step up to the line.”
Erik Peterson looks to lead the men’s team coming off a second-place finish at Notre Dame. He said he hopes to improve on his time of 24:10 in the 8-kilometer race from last season, and said he feels like he is in much better condition than he was a year ago.
“I’d like to run 23-something and be in the top 15 or 20,” he said. “Training has been going a lot better this year than it did last year, and I feel like I’m in a lot better position than I was a year ago.”
The men’s squad is young, meaning that new faces will have a chance to make an impact.
“We’re definitely a younger team,” he said. “We have a lot of new freshmen who are being expected to contribute to the top five or seven guys. It can be a little bit of a challenge.”