Marquette’s cross-country squads opened their season at the NIU Huskie Open in DeKalb, Ill., on Friday as the men claimed first place and the women took second place in a competitive field.
Seniors Connor Callahan and Jack Hackett placed second and third respectively, while the two other Golden Eagles finished in the top ten.
The female underclassmen fell short against Northwestern but saw promising performances by their freshmen.
Callahan was taken by surprise as DePaul’s Eddie McDaniel led the race the entire way.
McDaniel was not on the team’s radar coming into the meet, and when Callahan tried to out kick him at the end, there was another gear left in the tank for McDaniel.
“It was a slow race in general, mainly because of the course. I tried to come from behind on (McDaniel),” Callahan said. “I was caught by surprise, and that was why I let him get away from me early because I thought I would be able to catch up to him later on.”
Hackett crossed the finish line 19 seconds after Callahan. From the small sample size, coach Mike Nelson is pleased with the transition from a successful track season to the cross-country hills.
“This was (Hackett’s) best opener to the season ever,” Nelson said. “He will slowly get better as the season progresses. In years past, he’s been towards the back in the first race. He’s looking pretty strong.”
Freshmen Cody Haberkorn and William Hennessy finished together in the race in fifth and sixth place, respectively. There was a drop-off in times after the two freshmen, which led to some underwhelming performances.
“We definitely saw some guys who were rusty, and this race was a good rust-buster for them,” Nelson said. “I think we’ll pick up the pace and run much better in future races. I think we had a few people shell-shocked by the pain of racing cross-country.”
The women’s field was more competitive than the men’s side with six full teams.
Northwestern dominated by placing seven runners in the top 10. Marquette held off Northern Illinois for second place with just a six-point lead in the final standings.
Sophomore Elisia Meyle took first place for the women at Alumni Run in August and led the women’s side to the best start to the season in the last three years. She set a new personal best after a very tactical approach to the race.
“I stayed near the back of the front pack,” Meyle said. “I kept the leaders in sight at all times. I sat there until halfway through the race and started to make my move.”
The freshmen were the story for the women as they continued their impressive work from Alumni Run.
There were three freshmen among Marquette’s fastest 10 runners, with Molly Hanson finishing ninth in the meet with a time of 18:22, which was just 1:20 behind Audrey Huth, the winner from Northwestern.
There was only a 31-second split between Marquette’s top finisher and its fifth runner.
Thirteen women ran for the Golden Eagles on Friday, and all of them are back to full health at practice. Nelson hopes to have the entire squad racing at the Greater Louisville Classic in Kentucky.
Up next on the schedule for Marquette is the National Catholic Championship this weekend, where they will take on conference rivals Notre Dame and DePaul in South Bend, Ind.