Blugold cross country season preview

UW-Eau Claire’s cross country team anticipates success in the upcoming season

More stories from Nicole Bellford

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Both the men’s and women’s Blugold cross country teams hope to make it on the podium at the NCAA Division III National Championships this season.

From the outside looking in, UW-Eau Claire’s cross country team painted a picture of success last season, achieving a plethora of team and individual titles.

On the women’s team, the Blugolds repeatedly made a name for themselves, placing in the top five overall in each of their competitions. At the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Championships, the women earned third place as a team, repeating their performance from the previous year.

Three female Blugolds had top performances at the NCAA Division III Regionals—Senior Callie Fischer, junior Morgan Marek and sophomore Samantha Slattery each earned All-Region awards for their efforts in the 6,000 meter course. Fischer and Marek additionally received individual bids for the NCAA Division III National Championships.

Despite this success, however, Fischer summed up the women’s season in a singular phrase.

“It was a little disappointing,” the senior said.

Behind the scenes at Regionals, Fisher explained the team’s unexpected string of bad luck. She said many of her teammates ended up with injuries before their races, causing the Blugolds to just miss their goal of receiving a team bid to Nationals.

“We were doing everything right,” Fisher said, “but little things just kept happening.”

Heading into the upcoming season, Fisher said she has faith the team will make their goal a reality this year.

The women’s team will increase their depth this year as they only lost five seniors from the previous season and are gaining a handful of incoming freshman. Top finishers and previous national qualifiers such as Fisher, Marek and Slattery will all return to the courses this season, maintaining the Blugolds’ high end speed.

Overall, Fischer said she believes the women’s team not only has a chance to qualify for nationals this season, but also a chance to earn a spot on the podium.

“We have a really good shot this year,” said Fischer. “Our team is super deep, with some strong freshman coming in and talented returning team members. I think if we just focus on the little things, like stretching and good form, we can do this.”

On the men’s team, there is limited room for improvement. The Blugolds finished each competition in the top three overall, taking home their third consecutive WIAC Championship title. In addition, the men’s team took second overall at the NCAA Regional Meet, earning a team bid to Nationals. At Nationals, the men reclaimed their spot on the podium, placing third overall and earning their second consecutive NCAA team trophy.

In terms of individual success, several graduated seniors took top honors on the course at Nationals, including Matt Cyra, Nick Petersson and Ryan Graham. Juniors Sam Kuhlmann and Patrick Treacy finished in the team’s top seven, while incoming senior Darin Lau earned his third consecutive All-American title in the 8,000 meter course, finishing 6th overall.

Lau said he felt the team continued to improve throughout the season, leading to a successful National competition.

“Overall, we progressed as a team,” Lau said. “We had good training under our belt and we finished well. We are looking for the same success this year.”

Although the Blugolds will lose the efforts of graduated seniors Cyra, Petersson and Graham, Lau said he is hopeful the team will earn their fourth consecutive WIAC title and continue to podium at Nationals. Despite losing three top finishers, talented competitors such as Lau, Kuhlman and Treacy will maintain the Blugolds’ depth.

“It is really all in the training,” Lau said. “We just have to believe in it.”

The Blugolds will kick off their season at Lowes County Creek Park this coming Saturday at the Alumni Open.