Striding for nationals

Fresh talent puts cross country teams in position for a promising season

Story by Courtney Roszak, Staff Writer

After not advancing to nationals for the first time in eight years, the UW-Eau Claire women’s cross country team expects to make a comeback this season.

With a new attitude and stronger team this year, head coach Dan Schwamberger has high hopes for this season.

Meanwhile, the men’s team, ranked fourth in the nation, is looking stronger and faster than ever.

With help from transfer student Josh Thorson and top recruit Darin Lau, Schwamberger is excited to see where the season leads for this team.

Both teams have the goal to make it back to nationals this year. To advance to nationals, there is a crucial goal in mind: keeping all runners healthy. This means having a good sleep schedule, eating healthy and making sure to stretch or not to overwork themselves. Schwamberger said he stresses that the team must work hard to take care of themselves and stay on top of school work.

“Going to practice and doing the work out everyday, that’s the easy part,” Schwamberger said. “The hard part is the 22 hours outside of the day you aren’t at practice. Those are the times we really want to focus on.”

The women’s team has two key runners back this season after injuries sustained last year. Junior Lucy Ramquist  is back for the full season after breaking her arm in a bicycle accident last year. Sophomore Kelsey Jaeger will make her return after a year of absence on the team due to foot surgery last season.

The line up for this season’s schedule will allow the team to see how they compare to other top programs. One of the first meets is against St. Olaf at an invitational whose men’s team won first at nationals last year.

“I really like the schedule, we pretty much race every other weekend, so it allows us to focus on the training,” Schwamberger said. “One week we are able to focus on the race, and the following week we can focus on the work out.”

Cross country is a unique sport because  its  season is different than  other athletics. The first race that truly matters to the coaching staff and athletes is conference. While each meet matters, conference is important because all of the teams’ work is going toward the end of the season and advancing to regionals.

Staying healthy and strong ensures good results at conference. The first few meets are often said to be an adjustment period for the team to get back into the groove racing again and the pain, which can come with it.

Junior Ryan Mugan raced at nationals last year and placed 13th. His biggest goal for this season is to return to nationals and make top four. This past weekend, the team participated in their first time trial, allowing coaches and runners to get a idea of how individuals will do this season time-wise, especially with all the fresh talent on the course for both teams this season.

“The times this year are blowing the times from last year out of the water already,” Mugan said. “The big thing is to stay focused and healthy early in the season and it’s going to be a really good season.”

Eau Claire’s first meet will be their Alumni event this Saturday.