Cross country races towards Nationals
On Friday, October 21, the teams raced at Johnson County Community College, their last race before the conference meet. The women came in first place, and the men came away with second. Cross country coach Wade Watkins, in his second season of coaching for MNU, has high hopes for the team.
“We want to dominate at conference,” Watkins said. “And I think we’ve got the team to do it.”
Of the men’s and women’s teams, the women have a stronger season record. Watkins said that the women’s team, which has won four out of its five races, stands a good shot at winning conference.
“The girls are still hungry,” Watkins said. “They still want it.”
The girls have a shot to go to Nationals, dependent on finishing in the top two at conference. Junior nursing major Erin Krohn is confident that her team will go the distance and make it to the national level.
“If we utilize all of our coaching and our talent, and pour our abilities into conference,” Krohn said, “I think there’s no reason that we shouldn’t end up at nationals.”
Krohn, who joined the team this fall, won both meets she raced in before a foot injury set her back in October. Krohn will be racing at the conference meet on November 5.
For a program only in its second year, the team is turning heads. Watkins said that compared to last year, this season is different. The program is getting more attention from other colleges in the conference, and the team has a different mindset.
“They know the program,” Watkins said. “There is no complaining on our team. You wake up at 6 a.m. every morning. It’s dark. It’s cold. You run 10 miles. But there’s no complaining. That’s pretty impressive.”
Some members on the team have also noticed changes this season compared to last. Wyatt Stark, a junior sports management major who has run in both of the program’s seasons, said he noticed greater discipline and unity this year.
“We’ve grown a lot closer as a team,” Stark said. “There’s less arrogance. It doesn’t matter if the person who usually gets first were to get last on the team, as long as the rest of the team did good, everyone’s happy.”
During training, the men ran 60-75 miles per week and the women ran 50-65 miles. Both Krohn and Stark vouched for the difference the high demand has made in their seasons.
“Putting in lots of mileage helps us realize what we’re capable of,” Krohn said. “It helps build up that base, so that when we are racing, we know we’ve put in the work.”
Stark, who has had two seasons to settle in the routine, said he feels that he has grown a lot this season.
“It’s easier mentally to know, I ran ten miles a couple days ago, there’s no reason why I can’t race these three miles,” Stark said.
With one race standing between the team and Nationals, the team’s focus is crucial. Stark said he feels confident in the team’s capabilities, but that it’ll be a close race.
“This year,” Stark said, “we know what we have to do to get to nationals, and it feels attainable.”
The cross country program has widened its stride this year. Another difference that Stark noted between this season and last is the growing support from the student body.
“It’s really cool to see the school start to realize that the program’s back and to come support us,” Stark said. “I know we all really appreciate it.”
The conference meet will be November 5 at 11 a.m. at Swope Park.