by SAM AMADEO
DES MOINES, IA – Drake Bulldog cross-country (XC) kicked off its season on Saturday, August 31 running against Creighton University in Omaha, NE. The Bulldog XC men’s team was able to pull out a win defeating the Bluejays by a whopping 15 points. Senior Matt Cozine finished second overall with a time of 18:56 followed closely by teammate, senior Xavier Lechleitner, who finished in exactly 19:00.
“I certainly notice him (Matt) during the races. I try to catch up to him but whenever I speed up to pass him he does the same to stay away. It’s a great feeling to know that we are both right there putting forth our best effort.” remarked Lechleitner.
On the team’s win, Cozine said, “It’s a pretty good feeling to go into the season with a win. Regardless of what the outcome would have been, it was a great season opener and a wonderful opportunity to be able to compete.”
Head coach Jay Koloseus admitted the meet was a smaller one compared to others coming up this season, but it was a great opportunity for his guys to come together and see their hard work over the summer pay off.
“It’s nice having a smaller meet as our first,” Koloseus said. “It’s less about winning and more about our team ‘officially’ coming together, warming up together, running the course together, and of course, racing together.”
According to the head coach, senior Matt Cozine is “looked up to” by his teammates.
“He is reliable and puts in the work to get the results like he did in Omaha. He sets a great example for the rest of the team,” Koloseus said.
Winning your opening meet is always a great motivation boost at the beginning of the season. Unfortunately no win can be perfect. Cozine believes the middle of the race is where everyone on his team can improve saying, “One thing we could work on is the middle half of the race. In the beginning there is a lot of adrenaline, and during the end you are pushing towards the finish, however, during the middle is where the true grind happens.”
Koloseus believes more practice will improve his runners endurance as well as their pacing strategy. But all the practice in the world cannot prevent acts of god from tearing teams dreams apart. “We’ve been fortunate to not have any major injuries,” says Koloseus, “and knock on wood we won’t. There are a few minor things we are keeping a close eye on, because if one or two runners go down it can really mess everything up. “
Drake XC ran their second meets last Friday. Sending one team to the Oz Memorial in Falcon Heights, MN and a second team to the Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City. Koloseus noted the importance of the latter meet, “Some of the best runners in the country will be there and Iowa State has an amazing team. It’ll be nice to see where our new guys finish. When we see how our runners match up against them we’ll have a better idea where we’re at.”
On their way to Iowa City, Cozine and Lechleitner talked about the terrain of both courses.
“The course at Iowa City was made specifically for cross-country, so it’s a nice mixture of flat ground and hills,” Cozine said. “Falcon Heights has a lot of rolling hills, which I like but Xavier prefers flatter courses.”
Drake transfer, Australian-born Adam Fogg, won the Hawkeye Invitational with a time of 18:06, and four of the seven Bulldog runners finished in the top 15. The Bulldog men finished second overall beating out rivals Iowa Central, Illinois State, and UNI. In Falcon Heights the men finished fourth with sophomore Andrew Berndt leading the team with a finishing time of 21:39. Drake cross-country now gets a three week break before lacing up their racing shoes once again for the Mizzou Invitational in Columbia, MO on September 27.