XC moves on to Nationals

Story by Martha Landry, News Editor

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Both men’s and women’s cross country teams at UW-Eau Claire  areadvancing to Nationals after finishing fifth for the men and first for women on Nov. 5.

Head Coach Dan Schwamberger was pleased to see seniors Madi Sawyer and Steph Sjostrom running closer to the Blugold first runner, fellow senior Ashlyn Mauer.

He said it is great for the team to have such strong leaders, and if they are able to do the same at Nationals, it will really benefit the team.

Sawyer finished fourth place overall with a time of 21:38.64. Mauer finished third (21:14.09) and Sjostrom finished fifth (21:42.47).

“I never knew I was going to get fourth at Regionals because last year I got 17th,” Sawyer said. “And I was really happy how we took third, fourth and fifth right up there in the front.”

Schwamberger said last year the women felt a target on their back and had pressure to perform well, but this year they have focused on the things they can control.

The entire team, not just varsity, has been excelling all year, Sawyer said.  She said their workout plan went really well this season and they all have a lot of energy left.

“This is my third time at Nationals and I’ve only been in cross country for three years so it’s been fun going to Nationals. I’m really excited for this year just because I’m hitting the times that I want to,” Sawyer said. “Our whole team is doing well, and we are really a deep team.”

Two seniors on the men’s team had strong races as well. Aaron Easker, at 24:27.20, ran the second fastest time in Eau Claire history and Jeremy Kieser ran the fourth fastest time ever: 24:36.67. With the records dating back to the 1970’s, Schwamberger said he was really impressed.

Easker said when he started running cross country in college he never thought about breaking school records, but said he is amazed that he accomplished it.

“It gives me a lot of confidence going into Nationals that I can run up in the front pack, hopefully place in the top seven and take home an All-American,” Easker said.  This is the first year that the entire team will be going to Nationals since Easker has been to Eau Claire. He said it makes the experience more special and this week they are just focusing on staying healthy.

The men have good chances at placing well at Nationals and are very satisfied with placing fifth at regionals, Schwamberger said. He said they were only 10 points away from third place, and second place was in reach as well.

Easker said their fifth runner didn’t have a great day so placing fifth in the hardest region in the nation sets them up to perform well.

Schwamberger said even though the men and women are happy with the way they have performed, they have more to prove at Nationals.