The First Steps

Let me begin with an intro: I’ve been trying to decide why I run. The whole concept makes no sense. Running in circles seems like an exercise in futility; some type of game made up to occupy patients at a mental institution. Yet, running in circles has had a profound impact on my life; allowed me to meet my wife; many of my friends; and pulled me out of adolescent obesity. Lately, I’ve been trying to understand running at its most basic. Trying to remember what drew me to this sport in the beginning. So far, this is the best I can do:

You put one foot forward, then another, and you repeat. It’s that simple. Sometimes, our competitive spirit forgets that. Our sport is the simplest of competitions; the basis of every sibling rivalry; and the foundation of every other athletic contest on this planet. In our desire to improve, we focus on genetics, caloric intake, and VO2 max. We forget the basics. We forget how easy it is at the beginning.  We forget what brought us to this sport. You put one foot forward, then another, and you repeat.

This morning my run began at 7:03 AM, early for some, but nothing special when your 1 year old decided that 4:55 AM was a good time to start the day. Like most days, my right foot went forward first. For the next hour I controlled my world, no sales quotas, no home renovation, just 176 (yes, slightly less than optimal) strides per minute. Peace.

As I ran, my mind wandered to my goals. What am I trying to accomplish? If I’m going to log 60, 80, or even 100 miles per week, where am I headed? Every day I run, my net accomplishment is nothing. I start and end in front of my house; an hour of running to go nowhere. So, my goal obviously isn’t to reach a destination, it is some other purpose, a larger goal that can’t be achieved in a single day; I want to get faster.

It’s a simple goal, but one that can never be achieved. Everyday I get up and run, I get faster, I become more fit, and I achieve my goal. Yet everyday my goal eludes me, because there is no achievement that marks the end of the journey, no date when “faster” becomes achievable. It is, and will always be a moving target.

This moving target is the joy and the curse of running. Everyday we run, we better ourselves, yet every day our goals change and we realize that we continue to progress. We run in circles because it is the nature of our sport. Every day we fail and succeed. Every day the target moves no matter how much distance is covered. The only true finish lines are the ones we create, finish lines needed to justify the daily routine that befuddles our friends and relatives. It has taken me 15 years to understand that the times don’t matter, the PR’s are not the goal. As a runner, the peace is in the process, the battle that is won or lost every day. Every day I get faster, every day my goal remains the same. Put one foot forward, then another and repeat; just a little faster each day.

 

 

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Getting the Scoop From…Neely Spence, 1st Non-African World XC

 

Huxley: First, a big congrats on your performance at World Cross! You have to be really happy with your results; I can’t even imagine what it must have felt like to be in that lead pack.  Can you give us some insight on what the race plan was going into the event?  Was it more of an individual plan or more of a Team USA plan?

If there is one thing running has taught me, it’s that being adaptable is one of the most critical components of success. With all the uncontrollable factors out there, I had to control everything I could and then not put energy into worrying about what was beyond my control. Going into the race, every member of Team USA analyzed their strengths and we each planned to run the fact that would optimize our potential. For me, I consider myself to be a strong downhill runner; with four loops I had four opportunities to roll that downhill and that is where all my moves were made. The first lap, I nearly ran myself into the lead! That really surprised me but I just stayed relaxed by focusing on my breathing and my rhythm.

Huxley: With the US women finishing in 4th place, I think the World is now realizing that we are for real and ready to make some noise.  What was the attitude of the US women going into the race?

There was certainly excitement. Deena [Kastor] said it perfectly before the race: rarely are we presented with an opportunity to test our training against the best of the world. The added weather elements helped unite us even more and created a special memory that we will hold safe forever.

Huxley: You were the top American and Non- African finisher in the field.  What does this do for your confidence in the future?

I’m still amazed by this! It was one of many goals going in, but to finish a race and have accomplished all the goals as you know is a rare and wonderful occasion. I’m enjoying the moment, but I was still beat by all 6 Kenyans so there is plenty of work left to do.

Huxley: Can you describe the way the race unfolded for you?

I had a goal for each lap: 1 – get out, 2 – establish, 3 – roll, 4 – finish. I can proudly say I executed each of these.

My coaches told me going in that they were going to yell the number of seconds I was off 15th place. That was my race. Of course after I was running in 10th-14th they had to come up with other things to say ;)

Huxley: Going into the race there was a lot of talk about the course conditions.  Do you think that the conditions of the course affected many?  I know I witnessed you race in some harsh conditions before and it didn’t seem to affect you at all.

I always embrace tough weather as an advantage. Unless I’m going for a time goal, it becomes all about adapting and I think that is one of my strengths. Remember when the PSU meet was cancelled due to snow and rescheduled at Lock Haven for later in the day [Editor’s Note: fill this in]? I adapted and beat athletes who went on to the Olympics. For this event though, I saw an Ethiopian walking after the first lap. It gave me an extra surge of energy (not that I wish ill fortune fall on anyone).

Huxley: The US women’s team had a diverse blend of ages.  What type of leadership was provided by Deena who has had so much world and Olympic experience?  What do the younger women like yourself and Emily Infield take away from her?

10 World XC teams!? Wow. She had many words of wisdom to share going into the event and even during the warmup had an incredible sense of calm that sort of surrounded our team in a bubble. We were all relaxed right up to the start. Then we froze in the cold for 10 seconds before they fired the gun!

Huxley: Can you talk a little about the past couple of months and your training leading up to World Cross?  I’m sure things had to be a little hectic with being newly married [to Dillon Gracey, a former teammate at Shippensburg University] and all your travel you have done lately.

Glad you asked this question! Delilah [DiCrescenzo] and I roomed together, and we were chatting one night about how unique each of our preparations were for this event. She and Mattie [Suver] did the 15k Champs and trained at home. Emily ran indoors in the mile and 3k. Kim [Conley] went to Mexico for altitude training. I went to Florida for training and then ran a 10k road race. And Deena ran a marathon last week!

I have not been in one place for more than 11 days since October. Racing in Japan, Australia, back to Michigan for a day then home to Pennsylvania for Christmas and the wedding then honeymoon then Florida training then USA Cross in St. Louis then PA then Michigan then Florida again then South Carolina then Michigan then Poland! I now have three weeks with no travel. I am so ready to stop living out of a suitcase. On a side note, Dillon is finally moving to Michigan since we have been living apart since June. So the next three weeks will have excitement, I just don’t have to go anywhere for once J

Huxley: What were some key workouts that you did over the last month that really provided the confidence that you showed at Worlds?  I mean with the way that you raced, it seemed like you were determined not to take the back seat to anyone.

When I was in Florida we trained on clay roads. The top three inches or so was extremely soft and caused me to alter my form to stay efficient. Strangely, Ben true also trained in Florida on the same roads and we both did very well with the mud and soft footing of this course! As for workouts, I did 8x1k in 3:10-3:15 on two minutes rest. I surprised myself with this workout and how effortless it felt. Also, my long runs have been awesome. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately…), the last two have been in snow storms. But I was still running 6min pace by the end and felt really smooth. Feeling fit is a beautiful thing I do not take for granted.

Huxley: So what’s up next for Mrs. Neely Spence Gracey?

I am taking three days off to recover from the race and travel (as I write this I am sitting in the Copenhagen airport in Denmark after a sleepless night post-race where I had to leave the hotel at 1:40am to catch my first of three flights. It will be 24 hrs of travel!). Then, three weeks of solid training leading into a 5k at Mt. SAC and 10k at Payton Jordan. We are staying in Cali between races and we have a large group of athletes going as well as Dillon joining the squad for support. I’m excited to get on the track and chase some standards and new PR’s (I did get an auto for the 10k with my top 15 finish but I want the time, the experience, and the satisfaction of actually earning the mark).

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NCAA 2012 – Augustana’s Leah Black blogs for Huxley, Entry #4

Entry #4:

Runner-up at both the NSIC and Central Region Championships, 2012 has been a banner year for Augustana’s Leah Black (née Hansen). The senior enters this weekend determined to improve on her 11th-place finish at NCAAs in Spokane, WA last year and bring home a team title for the USTFCCCA #1 Ranked Augie women. Follow her journey as she blogs for Huxley Running Co this weekend!

Second place for the Augustana Women. Fourth place for the Augustana Men. It was a bittersweet day. We obviously had high aspirations coming into this weekend, and were really excited to show the nation what we were capable of.  It’s cool to know that our program has reached such a high level that we are disappointed with second place. It was a bittersweet day. I finished 11th overall, and had the best finishing kick of my career. I really felt like I emptied the tank today, which is what I wanted to do.

The banquet tonight will be great – we still get to celebrate the successes of both of our teams. Augustana and Adams State are the only two teams in the nation who will both get a trophy tonight. These last four years have been amazing. It’s incredible to think of how much this team has bonded and improved over the last four years. And I’m excited to see how much the program will improve in the coming years. I know we are graduating a lot of athletes this year, but I know that Tracy Hellman is one of the best coaches (arguably THEE best) in the nation. He will continue to elevate the level of Augustana’s cross country program each and every year. So keep your eye on these runners.

It’s been a privilege to race as an Augustana Viking. Thanks for a great four years!

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NCAA 2012 – Augustana’s Leah Black blogs for Huxley, Entry #3

Entry #3:

Runner-up at both the NSIC and Central Region Championships, 2012 has been a banner year for Augustana’s Leah Black (née Hansen). The senior enters this weekend determined to improve on her 11th-place finish at NCAAs in Spokane, WA last year and bring home a team title for the USTFCCCA #1 Ranked Augie women. Follow her journey as she blogs for Huxley Running Co this weekend!

 

A busy day! Excitement level is still very high throughout our teams. Personally, my adrenaline and anticipation has been sky-rocketing all day. I just want to get on the starting line! We had an excellent dinner tonight, and then headed to the opening ceremonies at MSSU. The drum line was awesome. Then back to the hotel for team meetings. Quick, motivational, and to the point. We are focused, we are motivated, and we are ready. Our fitness is great. Tomorrow we will run for our teammates, for our coach, for our parents, for our alumni and for our fans. And no matter what happens, it has been a successful season. Lights out!

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NCAA 2012 Individuals to Watch (Men)

Kevin Batt – Adams State College Red Shirt Freshmen

                The South Central Champ will be competing in his first NCAA Cross Country Championship come Saturday, but don’t let that fool you: this cat has experience.  Batt placed 38th in the World Junior Cross Country Championships last year representing his home country of Australia.

                Batt brings some very impressive credentials to the table with a second place finish at the Stanford Invite running a 24:09.  The Grizzly also took home the individual title at the Joe Vigil Open and placed fourth at the very competitive RMAC Championships.

 

Coach Martin Says… “Kevin has had a very solid season and is improving as the season comes to a close.  He put in a good base and should be ready for a great performance at NCAA’s.”

 

Isaiah Samoei – Eastern New Mexico Senior

                The senior hailing from Eldoret, Kenya looks to rebound from last year’s 66th place finish.  Mr. Samoei pressed Batt of Adams hard at the South Central Championships but came up just short of the individual title by one second.

Samoei is a two time Lone Star Champion and has twice claimed runner-up honors at the South Central Championships.  Don’t count this guy out, he can most definitely run with the big dogs!

 

 

Pardon Ndhlovu – UNC Pembroke Senior

                Pardon will be making his fourth trip to NCAA Championships for the Braves.  In 2009 he earned All American honors placing 30th.  The Harare, Zimbabwe native brings the 2012 South East Regional title to the table and with a load of championship experience he may leave some people scratching their heads.

 

 Coach Aycock says… “Pardon is looking to finish out his stellar season in style. He has won the individual title at both the Peach Belt Conference Meet and NCAA DII Southeast Regional for the second straight year. He won the UNC Charlotte Invitational and placed 3rd at both the Winthrop Invitational and in his respective race at the DI Pre-National meet. His school-record, personal best in was set in Louisville earlier this year, running a 24:15 in the 8k race. He has also run 24:18, 24:20, and 24:25 this year”

Micah Chelimo – Alaska Anchorage Senior

                The word “lose” is not even in Micah’s vocabulary:  the senior from Alaska Anchorage has been unbeaten through the entire 2012 cross country season.  Chelimo defended his 2011 GNAC and West Region titles for Michael Friess’ Seawolves.

                Chelimo is a three time All American placing as high as 15th in 2011.  He’s proved that he’s ready for battle after going toe to toe with the boys from Chico at the Western Regional Championships.

 

Coach Friess says… “Micah is a very hard working and motivated student athlete who has really come a long ways since joining our program. Micah has helped lead our team to our highest levels ever over the past four years through his dedication and commitment to his teammates. He has trained very hard and is very motivated. We are very excited to see the results of Micah’s hard work this Saturday.”  

The Cats

CHICO…CHICO…CHICO

Adrian Sherrod, Alfonso Cisneros, Isaac Chavez – Chico State, All Juniors

                Sorry gentlemen, but we’re limited on time and man/woman power to do all the research on you dudes.  These Cats have been prepping all year to make some noise come Saturday.

Chavez comes in with the top credentials finishing in the top five (2010 – 5th, 2011 – 3rd) in the last two Championship’s.  Sherrod earned All American honors in 2011 with a 19th place finish and The Fonz is looking for a little pay back after two years of disappointment.

We have to give the nod to Chavez who has proven time and time again that he is a big meet runner.  More importantly, though, can the Cats take home a title?

 

Coach Towne Says… “The three bring a strong scoring punch for us.  Isaac has twice finished in the top 5 and Adrian was a top 20 guy last year.  The Fonz has gained a lot of confidence by racing with them.”

 

Alex Monroe – Lock Haven Junior

                                Monroe – a two time All American finishing tenth in 2011 – looks primed for an even better 2012 championship race.  The junior from Lock Haven has been outstanding all year, looking very controlled while defending both his PSAC and East Region titles from a year ago.

Don’t be surprised if Coach Aaron Russell’s big dog is hanging around in the later stages of the race.  This guy’s speed is deceiving and he will pull away from his competitors in a heartbeat.

 

Coach Russell Says…  “Alex has been looking the strongest I’ve seen him, and is ready to make another run at the top ten this year after finishing tenth last season.  He’s a very intelligent runner, and has also gained a lot of confidence this season.  He has very high goals, and I think he’s ready to go after a good race in Joplin.”

 

Frank Fezza – East Stroudsburg Senior 

                                Frank who? Yeah, we’ve known about Frank for a while but things just haven’t clicked for him in a big way over the last three years.  The good thing though is everything has come together for his final season at ESU.  Fezza is no joke and pushed Monroe at both the PSAC and Atlantic Region races.

Fezza claimed titles at the Fordham Invite, D II Challenge and Paul Short Brown Division.  Frank’s not afraid to stick his nose in the thick of things and has a lot left in the tank for Joplin.

 

Coach Koch says… “He had a great season and he is looking forward to the challenge of racing against the nations best.”

Travis Beniak – Augustana Junior

                                The Augustana junior picked a good time for a win, taking home the Central Region crown over teammates Adam Braun and Paul Yak as well as Missouri Southern’s Eric Shott.

                                Beniak red shirted last season but has experience at the show competing at both the ’09 and ’10 Championships.  Can lighting strike twice?  Will Beniak surprise once again?  Stay tuned!

Paul Yak – Augustana Junior

                                The two time NSIC Champion didn’t quite have the outing expected at the central regional championships due to illness, but he has rebounded before and we feel that it will happen once again.  Yak crossed the line 11th at the 2011 NCAA Championship meet and has the ability to go top 10 this season.

If Yak and his Viking teammates pack up and keep rolling throughout the moderately flat Missouri Southern course you may see a host of blue and yellow grab All American honors.  We also look forward to seeing what color his Mohawk will be this year.

 

Coach Hellman Says…“Travis ran his best race of the season at the Regional Championship’s.  We have been training a high volume all year long and finally dropped his volume to get his legs underneath him.  This was a huge benefit as he was able to stay relaxed and strong throughout the whole race.  We feel confident that his best race is still ahead of him at the National Championship’s.”

“Paul Yak is an athlete that I feel the sky is the limit.  He has worked very hard this year to improve his endurance and is in the best fitness of his career.  The higher the stakes the more focused he becomes and the better he races.  Plus… the Mohawk is back and that always means it’s championship time!”

 

Jeff Veiga – U Mass Lowell – Senior

                                You’ve heard the saying Beast of the East? Well this is that guy!  Veiga finished third at the 2010 championships and word is that he’s just as fit this year.  After bowing to American International’s Mike Biwott at the Northeast 10 Championship’s Veiga became a man on a mission.  At the East Regional  Veiga rolled with Biwott and then dropped the hammer with a 1000m to go with no response.  Hold on to your hats when this big boy gets rolling!

 

Coach Gardner Says…” Jeff ran a very good race at the East Regional meet.  No one has tried to actually run with Biwott all season to test him.  The group including Rop and two Southern Connecticut runners went through the mile in 4:33 and our goal was accomplished.”  “Jeff is as fit as he was in 2010 when he placed third at the NCAA Championship’s so we are hoping for another top 10 finish at the Championships.” 

 

Mike Biwott – American International Freshman

                                One of the top freshmen in the field, Biwott comes into Saturday’s race as a seasoned veteran.  He led the Yellow Jackets to the East Regional title with a second place finish to U Mass Lowell’s Veiga.  Biwott claimed both the New England and Northeast 10 Championship titles to send the message across the country that this freshman is legit.

                                Don’t be fooled by his second place finish at the East Region: Biwott’s not going to let anyone get an easy win in Joplin.

 

Coach Mayo Says…  “Michael has been training and running well this whole cross country season, winning both the New England and Northeast 10 titles.  He ran strong at the regional championship but was set back with a laceration that occurred early in the race.  He has since been training really well and is looking for a top spot at the national championship.”

  

Matt Brooker – Cedarville Red Shirt Junior

Talk about having some good genes.  The 2010 Mid East Conference runner-up comes from a family with some big time credentials.  Brooker’s mom was an All American for the Yellow Jackets and the first runner to be inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame.  Brooker’s brother was a 4 time All American for the Yellow Jackets.  Is Matt the next Brooker to leave his mark at Cedarville?

The transfer from Bucknell sat out the 2011 season for Coach Orchard.  This seemed to be a great move as the red shirt junior came back stronger then ever to capture the Midwest Individual Regional title.

 

Coach Orchard Says… “He went into the region meet determined to get up the first hill strong.  He felt good at the top and had about 20 meters on the field, when he decided he would just keep the pace.  He has run that way the last two meets, and feels comfortable with it, and decided he wasn’t going to change the way he has been racing.

 

Notable Dark Horses

 

South Central

Ian Butler                                            Western State                  3rd at the Central Region Champions

 

South East

Spencer Frantom                             King College                      South East Runner-Up

 

West

Dak Riek                                              Western Washington    5th in a very talented West Region

 

Atlantic

Bryan Diebel                                      Edinboro                             3rd in the Atlantic Region

 

Central

Adam Braun                                       Augustana                          Central Region runner up

Eric Shott                                             Missouri Southern          5th in the Central Region and hometown boy

 

East

Glarius Rop                                        AIC                                         3RD In the East Region

 

Mid West

Michael Jordan                                 Southern Indiana             Mid West runner up and can slam dunk!

 

South

Moses Kirui                                        Florida Tech                       South Region runner up

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Under-The-Radar Humboldt State Ready For Nationals

As we’ve stated before our goal, at Huxley Running Company, is to focus primarily on “under-the-radar” talent at the Division II and III level.  We’ve always believed that while other sites give plenty of bang for the buck when it comes to delivering news, stats and videos of the professionals and top DI races, there is still a tremendous void for the rest of the collegiate cross country and track scene.

Nationals is less than 36 hours (and counting down!) away so it’s hard to really quantify any of these teams as “under-the-radar”.  All of these teams deserved making the field and they are 32 of the best teams in the entire country, therefore we are dealing with fairly elite talent.

But Huxley Running Company is proud to announce that our main “sleeper” team are the Humboldt State Lumberjacks led by coach Scott Pesch who is now in his third year with the program.  Pesch was a former athlete at Humboldt State as well which saw him win the 1988 Northern California Athletic conference title in the steeplechase and saw him advance to the national meet that year and in 1990.

Now, getting a former athlete to coach HSU had to be a boon for the program.  On “returning to his roots”, Pesch had this to say: “It’s definitely full circle, I truly enjoy it.  You get to pass on the same experiences, even the ones that happened 25 years ago, but it’s funny you go to the same meets you did and all the memories come back.”

But with the Lumberjacks finishing 5th in the West Region two weekends ago, they punched their ticket to Nationals thanks in part to a great performance by senior runner Austin Huff.  Huff, out of Cheyenne East High School in Wyoming, has been a star for the Lumberjacks; especially in the 10,000m.  Last track season actually saw Huff qualify in the 10,000m for Nationals with a time of 29:37.80 which ranks fourth in HSU history.

When gauging Huff’s chances for big success at cross country Nationals, Pesch stated that: “We are shooting for top-40 with Huff which is an All-American slot.  He’s telling me that he feels good which reminds me of when we stayed at Stanford and after a nap before his race [which was at night] and he just kept saying how good he felt.  We are going to see how the race goes, stay towards the back-half of the first group and let the race dictate the next moves.”

Huff, pictured here, is hoping to take home All-American honors.

While Huff has been a huge leader on the course for HSU, most eyes have been focused in on freshman-transfer Jantzen Oshier.  Oshier, whose claim to fame was almost breaking the much-ballyhooed 4-minute mark out of HS (his PR was a 4:00.82 in the 1600m) has been a great help to HSU this season.  Oshier might be more of a miler but still took home 36th at Regionals.

“Jantzen is a true wild-card.  He has great middle-distance speed and there’s been some signs of greatness as he is adapting pretty well from the 5k to the 8k and now the 10k.  He’s been a solid middle-of-the pack runner as he is around our 3rd-4th guy.  I just tell him to take it “two 2ks at a time” and in a year or two, he’s going to really come around”, Pesch would say about the high school phenom.

If you don’t support Oshier’s ‘stache, may I ask where you keep your soul?

 

But while those two might be the more well-known to the casual LetsRun commenter, Pesch sees a lot of talent in the rest of his squad.

“Really our 2-through-7 guys are really tight.  Joe Ostini is starting to get his legs back and Tyler Cleveland has been showing up.  You always have to consider that one of your top 7 might not have a great day our hope is that our 2-to-6 guy should be within about 30 seconds within each other.  Depth is going to help us.  Top-20 is definitely our goal and that should help us move on.”

However, it’s not just the guys who punched a ticket to Joplin.   The women’s team also earned the chance to compete another race after they took an impressive 3rd place at the West Regional final.  The women also received our “under-the-radar” team to watch as well thanks in part to the performance of All-American runner Bridget Berg.

Berg, a senior, seems to be locked and ready to go after finishing 4th at Regionals.  On Berg’s impact, “she’s been hurt but she has this amazing confidence that she brings to the table and is a highly consistent runner.”  When pressed about what he sees in her, the hope is to get “a top-20” finish which would be an upgrade over her 24th spot from last year.

Though Berg has the accolades, junior Devon Kelsey finished 8th at Regionals, also earning All-Region honors.  Kelsey has plenty of accolades including finishing 2nd at the CCCAA State Meet in the 2011 season (Kelsey is a transfer).  “She really came on this year, it would be great to have Bridget and Devon bring home two All-American honors”.

Then again, much like the men’s team, the onus of the women’s team shouldn’t just be on the top runners, it should be on the team in its entirety.

“Our Regional meet was all the way in Hawaii and the women raced a bit later in the day than the guys.  So the heat really got to a lot of them but they gutted out a 3rd place finish.  We have a mix of youth and experience and though we lose Bridget, we now have a group of people who know what it takes to make it to Nationals and since we’re ranked 19th, a finish around 16th would be great.  There is an extra energy when the 3-through-7 women start hanging around Bridget and Devon in workouts.  I think the women can really envision themselves at Nationals in the next 2-to-3 year cycle and we are just going to build upon that”, Pesch said when asked about the future of his program.

The ladies of Humboldt State with Coach Pesch (far-left), Bridget Berg (next to Pesch) and Devon Kelley (next to Berg) are ready for a big race.

Another huge storyline to follow is the rest of the Region.  “You end up rooting for your region a bit, if they can finish up higher; we can earn an extra qualifying slot to Nationals which can help us in future years”, Pesch summed up.

But in keeping with tradition about Huxley Running Company’s goals, Pesch was able to offer this advice for current high schoolers and future freshmen.

 “Be flexible.  Prepare for transitioning, allow yourself to.  I tell my freshman every year that you are opening a new chapter in your personal and running life for the next 3-4 years.  You gotta be prepared to sometimes get your butt kicked out there and sometimes it takes a year or two to adjust.  Allow it to happen and remember when you toe that line, there are plenty of high school MVPs or all-Conference runners alongside of you.  You earned your spot but so did they, so you are going to have to establish yourself at those big meets.”

Truer words have hardly been spoken and if you are a senior in high school, or younger, take those words to heart.

A huge thanks goes out to Coach Pesch and the Humboldt State Lumberjacks for allowing us a sneak peek into their thoughts in preparation for the biggest race of the year.  Humboldt State, we wish you (and of course all the other teams) the best of luck this weekend!  Make it memorable!

Know what would be really cool? If you followed Huxley Running on Twitter here or LIKE us on Facebook!

 

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NCAA 2012 – Augustana’s Leah Black Blogs for Huxley, Entry #2

Entry #2:

Runner-up at both the NSIC and Central Region Championships, 2012 has been a banner year for Augustana’s Leah Black (née Hansen). The senior enters this weekend determined to improve on her 11th-place finish at NCAAs in Spokane, WA last year and bring home a team title for the USTFCCCA #1 Ranked Augie women. Follow her journey as she blogs for Huxley Running Co this weekend!

 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Today went by super fast. 39 hours until the gun goes off! There is such a high level of excitement throughout our two teams right now. I think everyone just wishes that the race was tomorrow morning. We’re ready to rock.

This morning we ran on the course. It was great to be back there and to visualize it all again. It’s really a great course. The weather in Joplin has been fantastic, and it’s looking like it’ll be great on Saturday too.  After our run we ate at Panera – yum. I love that place.

During dinner, my fellow teammate – Kyle Blakeslee – had one of her tweets be re-tweeted by Flotrack. No big deal. The weird facial hair of cross country men seems to be a trend that will never go out of style.

Tonight we had some good team meetings. First the women gathered, then combined with the men, and then just the men. Tracy, our coach, reaffirmed us in our fitness and reminded us of how we really need to run for each other on Saturday. That’s one thing that’s been really special about our team throughout the last few years… we really mesh together well when the end of the season rolls around. And I know that helps contribute to our success at Championship meets.

During the meeting we went around and individually shared memories from the season and from our years at Augustana. Out of the eight girls in that room, six of us have been here for four years so we’ve really grown close. We’ve been through a lot together. It’s weird being a senior! I have so many awesome memories from the last four years here. College goes by too fast. I’ve grown so much throughout the last four years, and am super thankful for how this program has shaped me as an athlete, teammate, student, and friend. I’ve learned how to really push myself and believe in my ability.  One of Tracy’s favorite quotes is from Billy Mills. He won the Olympic 10K in 1964 and said: “God has given me the ability, the rest is up to me. Believe. Believe. Believe.” And that’s the plan. Believe. Believe. Believe.

 

Leah’s teammate, Paul Yak, displaying his…

#YakSwag

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LetsRun’s DII Prediction Contest

Think you know DII XC? Check out LetsRun’s DII prediction contest and win sweet prizes for guessing the top ten teams and individuals correctly!!!!

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NCAA 2012 – Augustana’s Leah Black Blogs for Huxley

Entry #1:

Runner-up at both the NSIC and Central Region Championships, 2012 has been a banner year for Augustana’s Leah Black (née Hansen). The senior enters this weekend determined to improve on her 11th-place finish at NCAAs in Spokane, WA last year and bring home a team title for the USTFCCCA #1 Ranked Augie women. Follow her journey as she blogs for Huxley Running Co this weekend!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Finally back in Joplin.  I can’t say that it’s a fascinating city, but I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for nearly a year.

Our teams left from Sioux Falls at about 1:00 pm this afternoon. I think it was kind of a hectic morning for all of us… finishing things up for class, last-minute packing, and we had to get our run in before we left too. But it feels so good to just be here now. Now we can focus.  And I’m super thankful that we took a coach bus this time! It’s great to be able to get up and stretch and walk around whenever we need too.

For the Central Region race two weeks ago, we took vans. (Our team prefers to call them spaceships. If you have the privilege of seeing one in person, you’d understand why.)

Today I was asked the question, “Does your team want to win again? Like, do they really want it?” My immediate answer was, “Yeah – of course.” But it has made me think about it throughout the day. Going into the National meet last year, our team goal was to place in the top three. We thought we could maybe win if we all had a good day. Maybe.  But I wouldn’t necessarily say that we approached the race wanting to win. This year is a whole different year. We want to have the same success that we did last year. We’ve all worked so hard to get our fitness to where it is.  We all want to run our best race, and we want to run as a team. But it’s definitely not going to be easy. There are some really, really talented teams in this race and in the end it’s going to come down to who really wants to win. Who wants it enough to push through the discomfort when the race gets hard? We’ll see. But I’m confident that our team is prepared to push ourselves, both mentally and physically.

I’m super excited for our men’s team too. They have really run as a team this year… in both races and workouts… they’re always just like this giant amoeba. They stick together as a pack. They run for each other and with each other. And that’s what’s going to make them so successful on Saturday.

Now just two more days of preparing and staying positive. Can’t wait!

Oh, and homework… the joys of being a student-athlete.

Keep checking back for more news from Leah and the Augie women!

 

Know what would be really cool? If you followed Huxley Running on Twitter here.

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NCAA 2012 Team Power Rankings – Men

It’s that time of year again cross country fans!  That time of year where you are transitioning from cross country to track or maybe even still enjoying some valuable time off in-between training cycles.

But for 32 teams in Division II those fun times are going to have to be put on the backburner as it’s time for Nationals, this year hosted in Joplin, Missouri.

The race where simply just qualifying is an exhaustive process within itself, where the best of the best get to throw down against each other and where fans get to finally end their yearlong debate of “who is best”?!  We at Huxley Running Company will provide an unprecedented look into all 32 teams who broke into the race and give you our power rankings!

 

1 – Adams State
Of course, right?  Last year’s runner-ups look to win another national championship under Coach Damon Martin.  Led by RMAC champion Kevin Batt, look for Adams State to try and regain their supremacy. After Batt, Matthew Daniels, Jovanny Godinez, David Sanchez, Andrew Roberts and John Luterbach offer more than enough reasoning to make us feel assured of their top spot.

 

2 – Western State
Behind coach Jennifer Michel, Western State seems poised to finish 2nd behind their Regionals compatriots. Ian Butler can run with the best of them and Vegard Olstad isn’t too far behind but Ieuan Thomas and Garrett Wilson need big races.  We trust Michel’s coaching enough to earn our #2 spot.

 

Michel looking like a B.A. in her Western gear

 

3– Chico State
Perhaps boasting the best top-three in the nation with Adrian Sherrod, Alfonso “THE FONZ” Cisneros and Issac Chavez; Chico St. really needs a big race out of juniors Aaron Thomas and Dayne Gradone to crack the top-3.

 

4 – Colorado Mines
First year coach Chris Siemers has continued to keep this perennial powerhouse in the top-4 of the Division.  The duo of Phil Schneider and Derek Alcorn keeps them in check but their 3-5 triumvirate of Frank Socha, Andrew Epperson & Adam Bodnar are really the glue of this team.

 

5 – Augustana
Augustana coasted to an easy Central Region victory last Saturday.  Travis Beniak dropped the boomstick with a 29:57 to win the region and Adam Braun wasn’t too far behind.  Paul Yak and freshmen Nathan Hauge and Harold Karbo are going to need to pull out big races but this team could finish higher.

 

6– Alaska Anchorage
Micah Chelimo is a threat to win it all but Alaska Anchorage are going to need seniors Alfred Kangogo and Jacob Parisien to step up in their final collegiate cross country races.

 

Chelimo dropping the hammer in the last phase of the West Regional

 

7 – Grand Valley State
Led by Brent Showerman, Alan Peterson, Spencer Pageau & Jake Isaacson (pick your poison and check out the most ridiculous spread of the year), GV State has a shot to wow some people.  However, a fifth runner needs to establish a presence and the lack of a true frontrunner might hurt them a bit.

 

8 – Edinboro
Coach Doug Watts, in his 44th year with the Fightin’ Scots, has seen it all.  This year’s team, even without All-American Scott Anderson, might be one of the better ones he’s seen in recent years.  Bryan Diebel is a top front-runner while Dustin Thomas, Matt Link, Michael Thielman, Logan Kempney and Dominic Patrick all finished ahead of every team’s #2nd guy.  That’s right, Edinboro had 6 guys in before any team had 2.

 

9 – UC-Colorado Springs
Yep; another South Central regional team.  UCCS might not be as renowned as their rivals but with Emilio Trujillo leading a talented top-5, they have the talent and pack to really move up.  One of the group (at least) of Sam Feldotto, Oliver Williams, Ryan Derrick or Luke Dakin need to really step up to help UCCS challenge those in front of them.  Still a great team.

 

10 – Western Washington
Last year’s 10th place team is slated to finish there again.  Top finisher Dak Riek is back in action as is Tyler Cannon and Chip Jackson.  A good top three should cement Western Washington’s spot again.

 

11 – Ashland
Don’t sleep on this team.  Colton Johnson and Brian Baum are a lot stronger than they were last year.  I think there’s some sleeper potential out of this squad before it’s said and done.

 

A tough Ashland pack earlier this season

 

12 – Ferris State
Finishing right behind Ashland in the Midwest Region is Ferris State.  While they lack a true frontrunner, which can hurt them, sophomore Andrew Harper leads a close-knit and older pack.

 

13 – American International
The East Region champions are all the way back here but don’t let that confuse you; some of these teams are just really good.  Freshman Mike Biwott was a huge impact runner for the team and Glarius Rop (which we can assume is an alter-ego of Galen Rupp) is just as talented.

 

14 – Missouri Southern
Could be another underrated team.  There’s a gap between sophomore Eric Schott and the rest of the field, but Schott has a lot of talent and potential.  Augustana is the class of the Central Region but Mizzou Southern isn’t too bad either.

 

15 – Minnesota State
Another Central Region squad takes 15th.  Mark Schuck, veteran of 34 years at the helm of Southern Minnesota, has another underrated team led by Josiah Swanson.  Fifth man Colton Wooldridge is key; a big race by him and this team could finish higher.

 

16 – Cedarville
Finishing in a dead heat with Southern Indiana, we are giving Cedarville the edge here.  A coin toss solved it but top runner Matt Brooker is as good as most runners on this list are.  Josiah Bragg and Ben Tuttle are key to a big race for Cedarville.

 

17 – Southern Indiana
Brooker is good but Michael Jordan finished behind him and come on, how do you bet against that name?  Instead of making a bad Scottie Pippen joke, the Southern Indiana spread of Clay Meyer, Trent Nolan, Will Cox and Tyler Pence (with Tyler Schickel not too far behind) show that Southern Indiana has some impressive depth. Another team to watch.

 

18 – Lock Haven
PSAC homerism?  Of course.  Alex Monroe is one of the best runners in the country and look for him to rack up yet another All-American performance.  The big thing to watch?  The return of Nate Zondlo.  Zondlo, who recently returned to action after a yearlong hiatus, is a HUGE talent who is running in his last XC race.  Zondlo can make this team finish higher.  Count on it.

 

We’re fans. #HavenTough

 

19 – Eastern New Mexico
From the vaunted South Central division, first year coach Casey Blevins has a good squad on his hands.  Isaiah Samoei, judging by his close finish behind Kevin Batt, can run with the best of them but Kaspers Briska, Kevin Roa & Patrick Lueras need to step up.

 

20 – Bentley
Out of the East is Bentley led by coach Kevin Curtin and number one runner Rob Dextradeur led an older and experienced squad.  This team is composed mostly of seniors so expect them to want to go out with a bang.

 

21 – Southwest Baptist
The last team to qualify out of the Central is no pushover.   The performances of Phillip Miller and Trenton Morris were phenomenal and maybe we are sleeping on this team too?

 

22 – East Stroudsburg
After missing out of Nationals by a heartbreaking two points last year, the Warriors of East Stroudsburg are ready to roll.  The performance of Frank Fezza this year has been nothing short of outstanding and veteran coach Joe Koch has to be proud of this team.  While they barely squeaked in, there is plenty of talent on this roster and one that looks ready to move.

 

Dear Frank: We recommend the cat face paint comes back for NCAA’s.

 

23 – San Francisco St.
Traveling from the West region is San Fran. State.  Bruk Assefa might be the frontrunner but the pack of Brian Trejo, Ernesto Rodriguez, Tyler Deniston and Ryan Woods is strong and close.

 

24 – Stonehill
Upsetting UMass-Lowell for the #3 spot in the East was Stonehill.  They raced on merit too as the pack of Sean Hanlon, Paul Cina, Daniel Gordon, Ethan Penny & Daniel Zawalich all finished from 10th-to-21st at Regionals.  Depth is key here and it rewarded Stonehill once, so it could do it again.

 

25 – Fort Lewis
Rounding out the South Central is Fort Lewis led by, you guessed it, another first year coach in Mark Dutro.  Top runner Kiprono Mutai may not be a household name but he is clearly the #1 guy on this otherwise young team.  Look for Fort Lewis to lay the foundation for another great season next year.

 

26 – Humboldt State
#1 runner Austin Huff leads this team but the big story might be freshman Jantzen Oshier.  The high school phenom finished 36th at Regionals but the talent is mammoth out of him.  Let’s see what he can do on the big stage.

 

Oshier harnessing the power of a gnarly stache to lead prep phenom Lukas Verzbicas in his glory days

 

27 – Columbus State
The winner of the Southeast Region is led by freshman Jacob Dirkman, sophomore Silas Rugut and junior Heath Lamb with junior Stephen Bowers close behind.  The Southeast region win got Columbus State to crack the national rankings at 35th.

 

28 – Mount Olive
Mount Olive, finishing a close second behind Columbus State punched their ticket to Nationals on the shoulders of freshman Dylan Lanford and Akiharu Kitagawa as well as senior Ronnie Sturgill.  Look for them to shoot for Columbus State.

 

29 – King
King actually has two of the three best runners in the Southeast with Spencer Frantom and Jordan Noe.  The two of them could actually help King supplant their Regional counterparts but freshman Garrett Watts needs a big race for them to move up higher.

 

30 – Alabama-Huntsville
Yes,  ‘Bama-Huntsville finished 2nd in the South but the performance of South Regional winner Blaise Binns and #4 finisher Jose Ortega could really help AH avenge their loss to Nova Southeastern.

 

31 – Nova Southeastern
That’s not to say Nova Southeastern is untalented either, senior Kevin Meagher leads a tight pack that includes junior Timo Kilp and Jordan Brown.  Don’t sleep on Nova Southeastern though, they could finish a few spots higher thanks to depth.

 

32 – Florida Tech
Rounding out our list is Florida Tech.  Runner-up Moses Kirui and third place finisher Chris Cacciapaglia lead an older squad looking to close out their careers with one last big race.

 

Now, these rankings are subject to change, and in no way do they represent what is definitely going to happen.  The beauty of our sport is in its simplicity: the watch does not lie.  You can close your eyes and maybe make contact in baseball.  You can get wide open and catch a game-winning TD in football.  But you can’t luck into a good race.  Talent and heart, much like other sports as well, mean so much; but there’s no way to measure it as a Moneyball has yet to be filmed/written for cross country.

That being said, we wish nothing but the best for our fellow DII’ers whose talent, drive and determination led them to this point.  No one can take away this experience from you guys and you earned the flight to Joplin.  Best of luck.

 

 

Know what would be really cool? If you followed Huxley Running on Twitter here.

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