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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Men’s Cross Country wins Regionals, goes to Nationals

The Grinnell Men’s Cross Country Team emerged victorious last Saturday in Waverly, Iowa at the NCAA Central Regional. As a result, the top seven runners are now set to compete in the NCAA Division III National Championships. The only other squad of Purple ‘Roos to capture regionals was the 1991 team.

Cross Country
Photograph by Will Freeman

The ‘Roos took the Central Regional 97-133, when Alex Reich ’11 finished eighth, darting through the 8-kilometer course in 25 minutes 51.6 seconds. Reich’s stellar performance landed him all-region honors. In addition to Reich, four other men took all-region titles—Erik Figge ’13 who earned 17th place, Frank Canady ’14 who finished 20th, Ethan Heppner ’11 who finished 22nd and Noah DeLong ’11 who finished in 30th. Finally, rounding out the group of top seven was Ben Tyler ’14 who finished 51st and Shyam Deshpande ’11 at 97th.

During the Central Regional meet, the team set out to run the first two miles at an easy pace, and then picked it up considerably from there. “We didn’t get carried away in the first mile or two, but from mile 2.5 to 3.5 it changed dramatically—we were passing people left and right, we couldn’t run out of oxygen too early,” said Coach Will Freeman.

The team had most members finish within a second or two of each other, but this was not planned—their goal was not to run in packs. “People say, ‘Why don’t they run together if they are only 22 seconds apart?’, but that’s because they are running the race that is best for them, and the fact that they come together in terms of time is an added bonus,” Freeman said.

Despite a lack of design, the close proximity between ‘Roos did help some of the men to push themselves. “I was able to see Erik and Frank in front of me when I finished, and I knew that we were all pretty close together, so it was a great feeling at the finish line,” Heppner said.

In comparison to past squads, this team seems to have handled adversity with a certain ease .

“This season has been a little bit of a roller coaster, from losing Dan [Krauss ’12] due to his leg injury, to struggling mightily at Oshkosh,” Reich said. “One big difference from last year to this year, was we were all nervous before the race, whereas this year I didn’t see one person who was nervous visibly before the race.”

Perhaps the x-factor to this new-found resolve and confidence is the way the first-years have performed and the way they have seemed to fit into the Grinnell system so smoothly.

“The first-years have contributed with their good luck, being fun to hang out with, while learning what it means to be a runner at Grinnell and, lastly but not most importantly, with their actual talent,” Reich said.

First-year Frank Canady has been a particularly dynamic teammate and a strong fit to the Grinnell program. It was this system that attracted Canady to Grinnell in the first place.

“Coach Freeman believes in the athlete-centered model, which is quite unique, where the athlete is given the freedom to handle his own life,” Canady said. “If I need to train this way, that’s good, if I need to run this way, that’s good—that’s what really made me want to come here.”

While the team has been beaming all week about their success last Saturday, they know that there is still more running to do and more effort required to place this team in the history books.

The team knows that the whole state of Iowa, as well as the rest of the Midwest, will be watching on Saturday, but they will not let their heads do the running.

“Last Saturday we had a subtle confidence, we ranked fifth the day before the meet, and we knew we could do well,” Reich said. “Now the pressure that we have put on ourselves for our careers at Grinnell has vanished, and all we need is a subtle confidence, the knowledge that we can do really well at this meet, and the desire to surprise everyone.”

Veteran runner Heppner believes that visualization is the key to his game, and with the familiarity that the team has with Max Cross Country Course in Waverly, they should be well in control.

“I think it will be easier to visualize the race, because since we have run the course before we will know where all the mile marks are at, all the tight turns,” Heppner said. “But at the same time the race will be an entirely different animal.”

The team knows that the motto that they have lived by all season, the one that Coach Freeman, who was named Central Regional Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year this week, constantly emphasizes, will be just as useful for this race.

“It’s about running smart, running the best we can and just letting the points fall where they may,” Freeman said. “I don’t know how good the other teams are going to be. All I know is how well we can do.”

The race on Saturday will include eight regions, 32 teams, six individuals, and seven Grinnellians who are ready to show the country what the jewel of the prairie is made of.

“We have to enjoy this because you don’t know how often this is going to happen,” Canady said. “And we definitely want to try to represent Grinnell as best as we can.”

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