Navigating the trail to nationals

The men’s cross country team placed first in the Big East Championships on Oct. 28. Photo courtesy of Butler Athletics


The men’s cross country team is built on a strong culture of academic and athletic success. 

Head coach Matt Roe is in his 17th season with the team. He has led the Bulldogs to be one of the top-performing academic and athletic Division I programs in the nation. The squad is ranked second in the Great Lakes Region, and 12th in the nation. Butler is looking to have a very successful postseason as they head to the Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 10. 

On Oct. 28 the team placed first in the Big East Championships with junior Matthew Forrester placing fifth individually behind redshirt first year William Zegarski who placed fourth and graduate Florian Le Pallec who placed third overall. 

As Butler looks toward the postseason, all focus is on their roster centered around the trio of Forrester, Zegarski and Le Pallec. 

Forrester is no stranger to the big stage. The South African native represented his country at the 2023 World University Games, finishing 10th in the steeplechase and 12th in the 5,000 meters. Despite his individual success, Forrester is optimistic about heading into regionals as a team. 

“Going forward to regionals, we are a great team,” Forrester said. “We have great coaches around us. Everyone wants us to succeed and are helping us do that.” 

Roe said not much will change training-wise to prepare for the meet. 

“In general our training isn’t changing too much, just small adjustments to fit the needs of the next competition,” Roe said. 

A common theme amongst the team is the winning culture they have built. Roe has recruited a tough group of guys who excel in the classroom and on the course. The team had the highest GPA in the 2023 fall semester among all Butler men’s teams with an average of 3.621

“Great students and great athletes tend to have great habits,” Roe said. “When they come together, you usually are getting somebody who can handle everything.” 

Zegarski is the embodiment of being a great athlete and student altogether. In high school, he won the Gatorade Player of the Year in the 2021-22 season, was an All-American, won two state titles and holds 14 school records at Little Miami High School. He also was an honor roll student, AP scholar and finished in the top 10% of his graduating class. Despite his individual achievements in his life so far, Zegarski is focused on the team’s success as a whole. 

“There might be a few achievements here or there that not everyone had in high school, but at the same time we’re all here because we all want to be elite,” Zegarski said. “We all want to be good.” 

That mentality has driven the cross country program to win three Big East titles over the last four seasons

The expectation within the program is to win, and the Bulldogs have consistently delivered. This has allowed them to attract talent like Forrester who said it was the competitive atmosphere that led him to transfer to Butler. 

“I came from a small D2 college, and the people there were great, but they weren’t competitive enough, and they weren’t eager to fight,” Forrester said. “I like the way we fight with each other to get better, and then we’ve seen a lot of success here.” 

The men’s team has been improving all season long, placing them in a good position to finish out the season strong. Butler started the season ranked 19th in the national coaches’ poll. The Bulldogs were up and down in the rankings throughout the season, but have now moved up to 12th

As Butler looks towards regionals with their eyes set on qualifying for nationals, they will need to place in the top two in order to qualify. They will face competition from Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State. The team is projected to finish second and will need to do at least that to guarantee them a spot at Panorama Farms in Virginia


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