The gunshot sounded as the runners left the starting line to begin their first competitive race of the season at the St. Olaf Invitational.
The men’s team finished first and the women finished fourth in a race of many good teams, coach Dan Schwamberger said. There were 22 male and 25 female groups competing at the event Saturday.
In the women’s competition, the University of Minnesota-Duluth finished in first, followed by Carleton College and St. Olaf College (Minn.). The men’s team’s first place finish was followed by Michigan Tech, University of Minnesota-Duluth, and St. Olaf.
“Our two goals going in were to work together with the training groups through the first two-thirds of the race and to finish strong and try to move up places after that,” Schwamberger said. “Overall, the team accomplished (our goals) and it was nice.”
Their goals of finishing in the top four teams for the men and improving the women’s 16th place finish at Nationals is realistic, Schwamberger said.
Senior runner and marketing analytics student, Ryan Graham, is a senior captain for the team. He said the St. Olaf race went well for him and the team.
“The first two weeks are kind of a struggle because we only race our own team,” Graham said. “So it’s really tough to be competitive against guys that you run with every day, but to finally be back racing against other teams is an awesome feeling,”.
Junior runner, Darin Lau finished in first place overall for the men while, Mel Becker and Callie Fischer came in 13th and 17th places for the women. Overall, six men came in in the top 25 for the Blugolds.
Eau Claire has ran at St. Olaf for the last three years, Schwamberger said. Last year, the men finished second and the women fourth, according to the records.
It was the first time the freshmen runners raced either eight kilometers for the men or six kilometers for the women. Schwamberger said that it was nice for them to get a race under their belt for the new distances.
“I think they will have a little bit more confidence now that they’ve raced that distance,” Schwamberger said.
The course Eau Claire ran on Saturday had uneven terrain, which includes mostly trail running. At the end of the month, the Blugold Invite will take place on a familiar and tamer golf course.
A few people did not compete due to injuries and other concerns, however, the coach said he hopes everyone can run by the Blugold Invite.
Graham admitted he was excited for the home meet and the rest of the season.
“I think myself and the rest of the team feel confident going into Blugold (Invite),” Graham said. “We have to focus on what we do best, and not really worry about the other teams.”
UW-La Crosse will be among other conference teams competing.
With a bye week approaching, Schwamberger said the team focused on recovering in the beginning part of the week, which will be followed by a hard workout on Friday, taking the place of a race.
“I’m definitely optimistic for the upcoming weeks,” Schwamberger said.