Cross country team hungers for success

| Sports Editor

After an intense summer of training, the Washington University men’s and women’s cross country teams are in shape and raring to go.

“I think our senior class is very hungry,” Head Coach Jeff Stiles said. “Over the summer, some of them were running up to a hundred miles a week—you can do the math on how far that is a day—so they’re highly motivated and are in unbelievable shape.”

A preseason poll by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) ranked the Wash. U. women’s squad as first in the D-III Midwest region and the men as eighth.  The USTFCCCA also ranked the women’s squad as third in the nation.

“Pre-season rankings… are not super accurate,” Stiles said. “On the women’s side, it’s more of a compliment to our tradition than to what people actually know.”

The women have qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships eight times since 2000. In those eight, they have finished as a top-four team five times.
Still, the Lady Bears’ high ranking is incredibly exciting for the team.

“It’s a really good sign,” junior Taryn Surtees said.  “We have pretty big goals for the season…We think top three [at Nationals] would be awesome—and even better than that would be ideal. But of course it’s a long season, and there are a lot of variables.”

Surtees, who finished 30th out of 279 competitors at the 2008 Division-III NCAA Cross Country Championships with a time of 21:36.03, is looking forward to her personal upcoming season.

“I have goals, but I’m trying not to be too ambitious at this point. Mostly it’s just to do my best,” she said.

For the men, the rankings mostly reflect the hardships they faced last year. After a frustrating bout of injuries on the men’s team, the Bears are looking to prove themselves this season.

“I think we can be a lot better than that, but it’s a fair ranking based on what we’ve done,” Stiles said.

Currently, the men are taking a new approach to training and racing this season. While hopeful, they are unsure of what to expect.

“A lot has changed since last year. We’re switching up the workouts we’re doing,” sophomore Nick Carroll said.  “This year we have two guys that should be up front and a whole pack of guys right behind. Our race strategy is going to be—and the way that we’re going to take on training is going to be—a lot different and hopefully more beneficial than last year.”

Despite the new training, the most important factor for the men will be to stay healthy.

“I think there’s no question we have the depth, and I think there’s no question we have talent,” Carroll said. “It’s whether we can stay healthy this season and get in some really good training.”

The goal for both teams is to qualify for nationals.

“We did in 2006, and that’s the only time it’s been done in school history,” Stiles said. “We’ve got a great chance to do it again.”

The Red and Green start the season with the Big River Running Early Bird Meet, scheduled for Sept. 5 at 9 a.m.  It will be hosted in the central fields of Forest Park in St. Louis. It is the first of eight meets before NCAA Division-III Championships.

“Our senior class is kind of leading the way just based on pure motivation,” Stiles said. “They’re really setting a great standard. It’s really exciting to find out what we’ll do.”

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