BY MATTHEW VANTRYON | STAFF REPORTER
The Butler men’s and women’s cross country teams will face their biggest test yet as the program begins its season this Friday.
A move to the Atlantic 10 Conference last year proved to be of little concern, as both teams came away with conference titles. However, the Big East will provide much stiffer competition.
Coach Matt Roe said the level of competition is sky-high in Butler’s newest conference.
“Division I cross country is more competitive now than it’s ever been,” Roe said. “Some of the best athletes between the ages of 18-24 are in the NCAA (cross country) program.”
However, recent history seems to suggest the change will go smoothly for Butler’s program.
Last year, the women’s team won the A-10 and advanced to the national championship meet for the first time since 2001. Their success was noted, as the women enter the season ranked No. 30 in the nation.
Meanwhile, the men’s team won its 15th consecutive conference title by the largest margin in A-10 history, defeating second-place St. Joseph’s by 83 points.
Roe said the program’s goals this year are the same as they are every year.
“Our ultimate goal is to be a national-level program,” Roe said. “There will be no complacency. If there’s complacency, you’re going to get beat.”
The women’s field in the Big East boasts four teams ranked in the top 30 nationally, including Butler. Providence holds the top-ranked team, Georgetown’s squad is No. 6 and Villanova’s is No. 12.
Fifth-year senior Katie Clark said she relishes the opportunity to compete at this level.
“It gives us the chance to race great teams,” Clark said.
The men’s team also has history on the line, aiming for its 16th consecutive conference title across three conferences.
Junior Thomas Anderson said he believes the team has what it takes to make the dream a reality.
“It takes a lot of committed guys with the same mindset to achieve the goals that we set at the beginning of the season,” Anderson said.
Roe said he sees the Big East move as nothing but positive, adding that no pressure is on the team because of the improvement in competition.
“We’re not expected to win now, so hopefully, that gives us hunger,” Roe said. “We have become the hunters instead of the hunted.”
Roe said being a long-distance runner is a challenge to begin with, as a different mentality is needed than in other sports.
“You have to be able to live the lifestyle, which does not necessarily fall in line with the average college student,” Roe said.
Tasks such as maintaining a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and training rigorously all provide challenges to runners.
Members of Butler’s program excel both on the course and in the classroom despite these challenges. Last year, the women’s team was named an All-Academic team.
“Great students have great habits. Great athletes have great habits,” Roe said. “We seek great student-athletes.”
Clark said dedication is not something to be attained solely in competition or in the classroom.
She said dedication is a lifestyle, something she prides herself in.
“I can’t do work that I don’t feel good about,” Clark said.
The team will begin the season Friday at the Bradley Classic. The Big East championship will take place Nov. 2, while the national championship meet will be held Nov. 23 in Terre Haute.
Roe said he expects his teams to make an appearance in Terre Haute.
“Our goal is to race on the last day of the season,” she said.