Saint Vincent’s cross country teams will be competing for a conference title at the PAC championships, held at Westminster College on Saturday, Oct. 28. The men’s team is gunning for an eighth straight title, having topped the conference seven years in a row.
Floyd Nichols, junior biology major and men’s cross country runner, described the format of the event.
“For cross country there’s only one event — there’s only the 8K,” Nichols said.
Nichols explained that the five highest-placing of Saint Vincent’s 18 runners determine the team’s score.
“Your place is the number of points you get. First place is one point, second place is two points, and so on, up to however many runners there are. The perfect score in a cross country race would be 15, because you only score the top five,” Nicholas said. “That’s very hard to do, of course.”
Dr. Andrew Herr, associate professor of economics, serves as head coach for the team. He thinks Saint Vincent’s success can be traced to the hard work of its runners.
“We have won seven consecutive PAC titles, but in several of those years, I don’t think that we necessarily had the most talented team. Our athletes consistently put in the work during the offseason so that they are prepared when the season begins. They also make good decisions outside of practice time regarding nutrition, hydration, sleep, etc.,” Herr said.
John Paul Depew, junior computer science major and team member, concurred with Herr, but suggested that the coaching staff is also a key factor.
“A lot of the people who come here aren’t actually amazing runners. But the training program Coach puts them through really improves people,” Depew said.
And that includes summer training that runners are required to do on their own, off-campus.
“Really, we do prepare for a few months beforehand,” Depew said.
Steve Patterson, freshman business major, agreed.
“We have two really great coaches who are the best coaches I’ve ever had and they really get us to run our best at the championship meet,” Patterson said.
Patterson also pointed out that many of Saint Vincent’s runners attend the college for academic reasons, while some of the college’s competitors are able to recruit much more aggressively. That makes good training all the more important.
Coach Herr and his players agreed that this year’s championships are likely to be quite difficult.
“We’re actually the underdogs this year,” Nichols said. “For the preseason poll, we ranked second to Washington and Jefferson, so they have a very good team this year. They’re going to be tough to beat.”
The team did face Washington and Jefferson on Oct. 14, winning by 17 points.
“That’s really close, so we know that they will present a challenge at the PAC championships. Grove City is also running very well. We haven’t faced them yet this year, so it’s difficult to know for certain just how
good they are. Geneva and Thomas More have also been running well. So while we go into the PAC championships confident in our abilities,” Herr said, “we know what it won’t be easy to win the title again.”
The Saint Vincent women’s cross country team will be competing as well.
Rachel Glatt, a senior English secondary education major, explained that the women will face their own challenges.
“We are hoping for third or fourth place this year. We lost one of our top runners, freshman Macey White, to a season-ending injury, so we all need to step up and keep that goal in our minds,” Glatt said.
They want to do their best to emulate the men’s team, Glatt said.
“I, personally, think the men’s team’s success is motivating,” Glatt said. “They are all extremely disciplined and dedicated and certainly earn their success. Naturally, the women’s team strives to win the PAC championships like them someday.”
But, Herr pointed out, it may not be easy for the men to continue their success.
“We will lose four of our top seven runners to graduation this spring, while Washington and Jefferson won’t lose anyone. So winning the title next year will be very difficult,” Herr said.
With strong running from underclassmen, though, he believes the team can be in the hunt again next year.
Photos: Jonathan Meilaender