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Both Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Meeting Expectations as They Race Through Season

Last Friday, Sept. 27, the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at Augustana College’s Brissman-Lundeen Invitational, the men finishing fourth and women seventh. The meet, which took place in Rock Island, Ill., is known for being fast and fun to compete in, especially for its flat course. Both teams were pleased with their finishes in this early season race and will use the results of this meet to gauge what they need to do in order to have a successful remainder of the season.

XC - Alberto Vazquez
Photograph by Alberto Vazquez. Adam Dalton ’16 [left] and Ben Tyler ’14 [right] pace themselves throughout the eight-kilometer race at the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational

The women’s team competed in a 33-team field for the six-kilometer race. Three Grinnellians placed within the top 40 runners: Sarah Burnell ’14 (22:49), Alosha Southern ’17 (23:07) and Diana Seer ’15 (23:36). A total of 415 women runners competed.

Three members of the men’s team finished in the top 40 runners, as well: Frank Canady ’14 (25:07), Ben Tyler ’14 (25:35) and Adam Dalton ’16 (25:44). A total of 491 male runners competed in the 35-team field for the eight-kilometer race.

The teams are growing collectively in depth. Many of the women ran best times at this meet, including Paulina Campbell ’16.

“It’s really exciting to see how good the team is this year, how enthusiastic everybody is,” Campbell said.

Tyler was similarly enthusiastic about the men’s team’s prospects.

“Everyone has the potential to be a contributor, whether it’s the points or whether it’s displacing other teams,” Tyler said. “I think to have success you have to know that you’re a good team.”

Currently, both teams are working on improving their depth by decreasing the time gap between the first and fifth runners. The gap between both the men and women’s first and fifth runners are around one minute and 30 seconds. men’s coach Will Freeman wants to close this gap down to 50 seconds.

“We’re a step up from a year ago as a team,” Will Freeman said. “But that gap is all important in a regional meet, so that’s our goal right now.”

To tighten up this gap, the teams are working on two things: confidence and diligence.

“The biggest thing that I believe that separates people at a really high level is confidence,” Freeman said. “I like our confidence level, I like our fitness level and I like our group.”

“We really want to focus on Nationals this year,” Tyler said.

The women’s team is also hoping to use the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational as a stepping stone.

“It puts us in a good place working toward our goal of winning Conference,” Campbell said.

The meet immediately followed the women’s Affirmation Week, a tradition started by Coach Evelyn Freeman. The runners work on being positive: leaving encouraging notes in each other’s mailboxes and writing motivational comments on cutouts of smiley faces.

The women’s team help improve each other’s confidence with a variety of unconventional motivational techniques, such as the imaginary “Soultron” benchmark.

”When you run past them, you steal their Soultron,” Seer said of opposing runners.

In terms of diligence, it all comes down to practice and ‘doing the little things,’” Campbell said.

This includes abs and weight training, and maintaining team energy and enthusiasm.

“You let the meets be the reward for the training,” Will Freeman said. “If you do the work, the racing is the reward.”

Will Freeman believes that his personal experience competing at the U.S. Olympic Trials has helped him realize it truly is confidence that makes outstanding athletic performance possible.

“When it’s race time, do you believe you can win or not?” Will Freeman said. “You train the mind through the body.”

One of the best qualities of the team is their improvement throughout the season.

“The hallmark of our team is progression,” Tyler said.

The next major meets for the two teams are the Jim Drews Invitational (for the men’s team) and the Tori Neubauer Invitational (for the women’s team), both held in La Crosse, Wisconsin on Saturday, Oct. 19. Fifteen nationally ranked teams will be competing in the invitationals, so this will serve as another benchmark for the men and women’s teams. Both teams will also be competing at the Wartburg Invite on Saturday, Oct. 12 in Waverly, Iowa.

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