Members of the Butler cross country team out in front of a pack. Photo provided by ButlerSports.com.
KEVIN LABOTKA | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
For both the men’s and women’s cross country teams, spirits are high as the runners prepare for the upcoming season.
Getting there will be a challenge as the Bulldogs face some tough competition.
“We race the best teams in the country,” head coach Matt Roe said. “We don’t shy away from a high level of competition. We see the best competition in Division I running.”
Despite the tough competition, graduate student and runner Olivia Anderson said the team set the bar high.
“We want to make it to Nationals, which is extremely difficult,” she said. “It’s very competitive, but we do have a really good, strong group of girls.”
Last year, the women’s team finished fifth in the Big East Championship.
First-year runner Josephine Thestrup said the coaches and her teammates have helped her get used to running on the college level.
“I like the coaches; they are really great,” she said. “[My teammates] help me with the pace on the workouts. They set the pace and I just have to follow. That’s really helpful and it also makes it easier for me to adjust to the training.”
After helping guide the first-years, Anderson noticed some specific improvements in their running.
“Talking to them, they’ve been able to fit in with the team really well, and for some of them, their training has gotten more intense and they are putting in more mileage,” Anderson said. “They’ve been able to handle it really well.”
Senior Katherine Turner said the new athletes adjusted well to the increase in mileage because of the way the coaches have eased them into it.
“Coach Roe is really good with [easing in the new runners],” Turner said. “He brings them in gradually. He doesn’t expect them to come in and be training at the same level as people who have been here three or four years.”
The upperclassmen helped the first-years in their new training by running together in mixed class groups. Junior Bobby Johnson said the team became close and that he helped the first-years get used to college.
“We’ve done a good job of being a unit and including them in everything and making them feel at home,” he said. “It’s definitely crucial to succeeding as a group, being able to get the younger guys to believe and have confidence. ”
Turner said supportive teammates can help in race situations.
“Having your teammates there who are also your friends can be a really important part of racing well,” she said. “It helps you keep going when you’re not running well. You feel the support of your teammates even when you can’t see them.”
Last year, the men’s team finished in fourth place at the Big East Championship, and they are focused on taking the next step to be top three in the conference.
“I think we have a really solid squad,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a lot of leadership, and we’ve got a lot of talent. I think we have that underdog confidence and mentality that we are trying to build. We want to be able to be the team that tries to knock off someone or surprise someone, and just mess everything up for a team that expects to do well.”
Redshirt freshman Euan Makepeace said the team is secure in knowing their goals are achievable.
“We’re all confident that it’s somewhere we can be and obviously it takes a lot of work to get to that level,” he said. “But everyone on the team is committed, and we all understand what we have to do to get there.”
The first race of the season was on Sept. 2, which the women’s team won by defeating IUPUI, Ball State University and Marian University. The men’s team finished just behind IUPUI for second placed.
Their next race is on Sept. 17 in Nashville, Tenn., at the Commodore Classic.