The Webster men’s cross country team is coming off of the best finish in school history at the NCAA Regional Championships. The women’s team put up the third best finish in school history. The success built last year will be put to test in the 2015 season with young, but experienced runners. The men’s and women’s team have one combined senior. But Head Coach Dan Graber says that may not be a bad thing.
“Having guys that are willing to work hard really means everything. I think we definitely have a dedicated group that are willing to put in the mileage year round,” Graber said. “Running is one of those sports where you get out of it what you put in to it. If you run a little more each year, it’s pretty simple, you’re going to get better.”
The men’s team is coming off of the best finish in Webster’s history at the NCAA regional championship. The Gorloks finished 22nd out of 38 teams. The previous best was 30th place, in 2012.
“We did that with two seniors, [Jason Hickson and Greg Fletcher] so losing those two guys puts a lot of pressure on the returners,” Graber said. “It puts some pressure on some guys that have never been all-conference athletes. I think that’s some good pressure to have.”
The experience gained from the season last year will be a big benefit for the 2015 cross country team, Graber said.
“Usually you wouldn’t want to put that type of pressure on freshman, but now they are sophomores, and they should be able to handle it,” Graber said. “Getting second in the conference again is going to be tough, but I definitely think we have some guys that are willing to step up to the challenge.”
The women’s team had a strong finish to the season last year as well. They placed 31st out of 41 teams at the NCAA regional championships, for the third best finish in school history.
Five of the team’s seven runners in that race set a new season best time. Four of those runners return to the Gorloks for the 2015 season.
“It gives people confidence in the training when you have your best stuff at the end of the year, because that’s what you want to do. It gives our runners confidence that they’ll be able to do that again this year,” Graber said.
Much like the men’s team, the women’s team is leaning on the gained experience from last season. With no seniors, the runners are young, but many of them have run in big meets before.
“They are a year more mature, and have a year more mileage under them so they should be performing at a higher level. I think our women are really motivated going into this year,” Graber said.
Graber doesn’t want to set specific goals for the end of the year since the season is so long, but focuses more on individual day goals.
“We are paying attention to all the little details, like their flexibility, making sure they are getting enough sleep each night, making sure they are getting ahead on their studies, those are things that other teams may neglect and we want to make sure we are as rested and healthy as can be at the end of the season.”
Graber said that with a sport like cross country, health at the end of the year is one of the most important things. The Saint Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Championship meet isn’t until Halloween, with the NCAA regional championships two weeks after.
“We are going to do our best if we focus on those things and are gaining a little bit of fitness each day, and being as healthy as we can be as a team. If we do what we need to do each day we’re going to be as fit as we can be at the end of the season, and then able to perform as high as we can,” Graber said.
Both the men’s and women’s teams begin the season on Sept. 1 with a dual meet against Fontbonne University. Webster will also run in one of the biggest races in the Midwest in Rock Island, Illinois on September 25th.