BY BAILEE COFER
This past Halloweekend, your Drake University men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship meet at Missouri State. Both teams competed well, with the men finishing 5th and the women finishing 8th.
For the coaches who transitioned to Drake from the SEC and many of the athletes, this was their first MVC cross country championship experience. The men’s and women’s teams are very young with only two of eight female runners and two of seven male runners being upperclassmen.
For the first-years, this was their first experience ever in a collegiate conference race. The women’s team spent the season competing in mostly 6K race distances, but the MVC was a 5K race.
First-year Elizabeth Aho, who placed 51st, noted that the 6K distance is quite a jump up from the high school 3-mile/5K race distance, and it was a relief to run a 5K for the championship race. She also said the collegiate conference meet experience was a bit intimidating for her.
“In high school, the state meet is the biggest meet of the year, but we focus more on getting to state and the actual state meet, we’re just excited to make it there,” Aho said. “In college, the conference meet is the biggest race, and it’s a little more nerve-wracking because you can’t just be excited to be there – you have to be ready to perform there.”
On the men’s side, first-year transfer Max Fridrich took 5th place and earned All-Conference honors as well as the Freshman of the Year Award. Fridrich transferred to Drake from Austria, and this was his first experience at a collegiate conference race as well.
“Austria doesn’t have a cross country season, it’s just one or two races throughout the year and they are way smaller than this,” Fridrich said. “The courses are different in Austria as well – more gravel, not as much grass. Plus, you have to jump over small obstacles like hay bails.”
Fridrich said cross country is not a popular sport in Austria, so the atmosphere at the MVC championship was exciting – there were many fans and spectators that came out to support.
“It was awesome to have people out here cheering us on,” Fridrich said.
Sophomore Matt Cozine took 19th place, a significant personal improvement from 32nd place last year, much of which he attributes to good summer training and his teammates.
“I took this summer very seriously since I knew what I was in for in terms of the cross country season,” Cozine said. “Freshman year, I didn’t know what to expect with college running.”
The summer training and his fast teammates helped Cozine improve, and he said the team is in for an exciting future with everyone in Drake’s top five returning next year.
Sophomore Morgan Garcia also improved from her first year to this year, and noted that having her first year under her belt helped her feel more confident going into this season.
“I felt more physically fit and mentally tougher than last year,” Garcia said. “I knew the race was going to go out fast, and that you have to go with it because the race spreads out very quickly into groups.”
Garcia said this year the team dynamic has been great, especially with such a young team.
“We’ve been very supportive of each other,” Garcia said. “In workouts, we push each other to be the best we can be, and we’ve got two more years to keep translating that into races.”
The coaches stated they are excited by what they saw at their first MVC championship race. It was a smaller meet than the SEC, so the dynamics were a bit different; getting out in the top third of the field of the SEC looks a lot different than the top third of the MVC.
“The women run a 5K in the MVC championship versus a 6K for the SEC, so with the 5K you have to be quite sharp since you don’t have that extra 1K to make up ground,” head coach Mark Carroll said. “You need to have good turnover and get off the line well.”
Overall, the coaching staff said Drake’s performances in the MVC championship races were very promising. Coach Amy Rudolph said it’s very clear that the underclassmen are excited about the future.
“That is what the program needs right now,” Rudolph said. “And we’re excited to build upon that in the next two to three years.”