A week after a relatively easy team victory and racing to a perfect team score in its first meet of the season at Northern Illinois University Invitational, the Wisconsin women’s cross country team, ranked 13th in the USTFCCCA Preseason National Rankings, returns to action this weekend at Iowa State University.While their initial meet offered challenges of its own, such as rain and atrocious course conditions, this weekend’s meet will see the Badgers go toe-to-toe with some national powerhouses, including the Colorado Buffaloes, ranked No. 6 in their region and No. 23 nationally. They will also face off against Oklahoma State, which is also ranked No. 6 in its respective region. UW head coach Jim Stintzi notes the course should be rather challenging. “The course should be pretty tough at ISU, with the earlier stages of the race being fairly flat, but with hills kicking in during the second half of the race when all the runners will be the most fatigued,” Stintzi said. “It should be a good preview of the course layouts for some of our bigger meets down the road, such as the Big Ten Championships, the Great Lakes Regional Meet and the National Meet.”Stintzi believes the team’s ability to react to poor conditions at NIU and still race well will suit it well when adverse weather strikes later on in the season and is happy his team had to overcome such an event early on. Stintzi also believes the Badgers will be rolling into their meet in Ames, Iowa with some confidence.When discussing what he hopes the team will take out of its opener at NIU, Stintzi said they need to compete as a unit, rather than against each other.“Running as a team needs to improve, as each runner ran too much as an individual,” Stintzi said. “This is common early on in the season when everyone is fighting for a spot on the traveling squad. … We need to learn how to run with more a pack mentality and work together as a cohesive unit in races.”Individually, junior top runner Hanna Grinaker has multiple goals for this meet. “On an individual level, I would like to get a better feel for cross country racing, as last week was far from typical as far as weather and course conditions go,” Grinaker said. “I hope to be near the front of the race, maintain a positive mindset throughout the race and contend for a top spot overall.”Grinaker is also excited about the team’s chemistry as the season progresses. “The team is gelling extremely well,” Grinaker said. “All of the girls are really close and extremely positive people. We all genuinely want the best for one another.”Senior Gwen Jorgensen sees the meet as a huge steppingstone for the team and an early progression gauge. “Each meet builds in importance from here,” Jorgenson said. “Pre-Nationals, Big Tens, Regionals and Nationals. Saturday will be a good test in determining our potential as a team come November.” While the meet on Saturday will not make or break the Badger’s season, it will be a huge day for the talented freshman class to prove itself under the heat of tough competition as well as a chance for Coach Stintzi to see what his team is made of. The Badgers will be thrown into the fire this week at ISU and hope to walk away calloused and tough, prepared for even tougher battles that lie ahead.