The West Virginia cross country team will try to earn its first team appearance in the NCAA Championships since 2014 on Friday when it travels to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania for the Mid-Atlantic Regionals.
WVU must finish in the top two of the region to earn an automatic bid into nationals, or it can finish third and have a shot at a national at-large bid.
The Mid-Atlantic Region contains three ranked teams — No. 9 Villanova, No. 19 Penn State and No. 27 Georgetown — along with non-ranked teams that are considered contenders, including WVU, Princeton, Bucknell and Pittsburgh.
For WVU to have a shot at nationals, it will need to knock off at least one ranked team. Head coach Sean Cleary said that pulling off an upset will be a tall task.
"Penn State and Villanova have been running quite consistent over the last few weeks, and they’ve been running one step above us all year," Cleary said.
Cleary added that some of the non-ranked teams in the field are anything but push-overs.
"Princeton beat us four weeks ago; we ran a good race and they still beat us," Cleary said, referring to WVU’s final regular season meet at Penn State.
Unfortunately for WVU, senior Jill Forsey will not be suiting up on Friday, according to Cleary. Forsey has yet to compete in 2017.
Forsey’s absence at the top has given the younger girls on the team a chance to contribute. At the Big 12 Championships two weeks ago, freshman Haley Jackson and sophomores Olivia Hill and Candace Jones rounded out the team score, accompanying seniors Maggie Drazba and Amy Cashin.
The team running this Friday will mirror the roster from two weeks ago, Cleary said.
"The team that we ran at Big 12 is the same team we are running this weekend," Cleary said.
That roster included Drazba, Cashin, Jackson, Hill, Jones, senior Rebecca Wendt and freshmen Sarah Wills, Bree Warren and Antigone Archer.
Cleary said that the last two weeks his runners have battled sickness and injuries, which worried him a bit. But this week, he said the team looked good and should be ready to roll.
"By the time we get to Friday, we’re going to be back in a good place," Cleary said.
Friday’s regional is scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m. ET.