Cross country tries to follow up on best season in school history
So how do they follow that up in 2012?
“People are coming in here in better shape than they’ve ever been before, and I think we’re ready to be very competitive on a national level,” sophomore Lucy Cheadle, arguably the quickest remaining runner on the women’s team, said.
Cheadle acknowledged that this year may be a bit of a “rebuilding year” in a personnel sense. Gone are several of the team’s best runners on both the men’s and women’s side—runners such as Michael Burnstein and Tucker Hartley on the men’s team and Liz Phillips and Erica Jackey on the women’s.
Regardless, the teams aren’t feeling too much pressure to necessarily match the end results of their landmark 2011 season.
“I don’t think we have a specific benchmark in mind,” sophomore Ryan Senci said. “It’s just to perform as well as we can with what we have.”
What they have is still a very solid group of runners. Both the men’s and women’s teams return four out of their seven respective participants in last season’s NCAA Championship meet, along with numerous other contributors down the lineup.
“We have a great senior class and junior class,” Cheadle said. “A lot of people trained really hard over the summer and are ready to fill new roles and be competitive in the top seven.”
The team has a few landmark meets over the course of the season, most notable among them University Athletic Association Championships on October 27 and NCAA Championships on November 17. While every meet on the schedule remains important, there’s a balance that has to be maintained over the course of the year to make sure the Bears are in top shape for their most important meets.
“You need to have the endurance and the patience to peak in late November,” Cheadle said, referring to the NCAA meet. “Not at conference or…at Early Bird, which some people do if they train over the summer.”
Runners attributed their ability to stay in shape at the right time to the training schedule set in place by Stiles.
“Coach does a great job of catering to the way you should train,” Senci said. “You don’t do speed work until late in the season. Throughout the season you’re still kind of building and building, and at the end you sharpen up a bit.”
And that build-up could help the teams bring back another conference title—which would be the third straight for the men’s team and fourth straight for the women’s team—which leads into another one of the team’s ultimate goals. No one school has ever swept UAA championships in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field, on both the men’s and women’s side.
Wash. U. was one spot away (in women’s outdoor track) from achieving that goal last year. Despite the number of new faces at the top of the team this season, the team believes there’s enough in place that they’ll still be in contention all year round.
“We still have such great leadership on the team that there’s a lot of people to look up to,” Cheadle said.
The season begins on Friday evening in Forest Park, when the team faces Greenville College in a Dual Meet at 6:00 p.m.