NCAA Cross Country Preview

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An odd season interrupted by unseasonable weather and physics will reach its desired conclusion when senior Nicki Cronin of the Muhlenberg women’s cross country team runs in the NCAA Championships at Hanover College in Indiana on Saturday.

Nicki Cronin Cronin qualified for the national meet as one of seven at-large invitees from the Mideast Region and will be the fourth Mule female to compete in the NCAA Championships. Counting runners from the men’s team, Muhlenberg has sent at least one runner to NCAAs in nine straight seasons.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “This has been a dream of mine since freshman year and I’m excited to finally make it.”

It hasn’t been the smoothest of trips to nationals for Cronin. She sat out a few races at the start of last cross country season with IT band problems and suffered a stress fracture that caused her to miss her junior outdoor track season.

Despite more ailments this fall, she’s had a stellar year that included a fifth-place finish at the Division I-heavy Lehigh Invitational, a runaway win at the Cedar Crest/Muhlenberg Invitational and now, a trip to nationals.

“I guess all the hardships that you go through help you get to the point that you want to be at,” said Cronin. “I’ve been lucky to have such good coaches at Muhlenberg.”

After winning the Cedar Crest/Muhlenberg Invitational, Cronin had to wait more than a month before racing again, but it had nothing to do with physical limitations. The women’s race at the Paul Short Run was cancelled due to excessive heat and humidity, and Cronin was taking her GREs the day the rest of the Mules competed at the Gettysburg Invitational.

NCAA logo “It’s definitely been a weird season,” said Cronin, who has applied to eight graduate schools with an eye to studying high-energy physics or particle physics. “It was hard going to conferences not having raced in a month. But not racing as much probably helped me stay fresher for the big meets.”

In those big meets, Cronin placed 19th at the Centennial Conference Championships and a career-best 20th at the Mideast Regional to earn all-region honors for the third straight year. After going five weeks without competing, the NCAA Championships will be her third race in four weeks.

Although this will be Cronin’s first time at nationals for cross country, she was a member of the distance medley relay team that placed 10th at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in March. One of her relay teammates, Samantha Mayden, ran in the NCAA cross country meet twice.

“We’ve been texting – she’s been telling me to make sure I have fun,” said Cronin. “Obviously you’re there for a purpose, but it’s important to have fun.”

Cronin says she has never gone farther than Connecticut to run in a cross country meet, and she also has never gone to run by herself. But she’ll have her teammates in mind when she steps up to the starting line on Saturday.

“My teammates have been so supportive. They came to my house and decorated my door with ribbons and signs,” she said. “I know they’ll be with me in spirit. I’ll be running for them too.”
Click here for the meet site.