Cross country runs to a top 20 finish at nationals
To prepare for the season, each member of the team would run up to 15 miles a day. By the time the first team practice took place in August, the team had already run several thousand miles collectively.
“You try to hit it as hard as you can in practice. It’s rough, but you know in the end it is worth it,” junior Rachel White said.
The extra workload in practice definitely paid off for White as she reached her goal of running a 5k race under 20 minutes and helping the women’s team to win the conference title. Accomplishing both of those goals punched the entire team’s ticket to the NAIA Cross Country National Championships held in Washington.White credited making nationals not only to the intense practices but to her teammates.
“A strong team dynamic helped us reach nationals [as well as] training together and competing everyday,” White said.
To kick off the season, the team packed its bags and headed to Colorado for a week of high altitude training. Head Coach Nate Wiens said he wanted the trip to serve as a bonding opportunity and to learn how to run as a team.
“I believe in order to have a strong start as a team, we needed to manage our expectations,” Wiens said.
Wiens’s theory proved to be true as he coached multiple athletes to nationals this year, including freshman Dakota Myers. Myers said going to nationals as a freshman is a rare occurrence in the sport of cross country. He was the only freshman on the men’s team to qualify.
“Going to nationals, especially as a freshman, was an awesome experience I know many don’t get to have so I made sure to not take it for granted,” Myers said.
Although Myers had a successful first season, he said he still remains hungry for more success to push himself further as an athlete. Myers said he was disappointed he did not make All American this year and the desire to achieve that accolade motivates him to keep working for his next three years at MNU. Myers also credited making nationals to his teammates and said he enjoyed the elite level of competition.
“Just to see athletes who are elite at what they do and know some will go on to the Olympics, it was a different sense of accomplishment knowing you’re competing on the same stage as them,” Myers said.
The season started in Colorado and culminated at the highest stage of competition in Washington. Through determination, focus, 5:45 a.m. daily practices and sheer endurance, these athletes brought MNU’s name to a national level. While cross country season is over, the work doesn’t end. After five days of rest, the athletes quickly changed gears and are now preparing for the indoor track and field season. The runners will now be focusing their efforts on securing another conference title for both the men’s and women’s teams.
Carlos Guzman- More by this author
Carlos Guzman ('19) is from Overland Park, Kansas and is the Sports editor for The Trailblazer. He is a biology major with an emphasis in pre-medicine and is also pursuing a minor degree in Youth and Family Ministry. Carlos is also on the cross country and track and field team.