The Drake cross country team will compete in Friday’s Grand View Invitational, but a win at next weekend’s Roy Griak Invitational tops the Bulldogs’ to-do list.
“As a team, as a whole, (Roy) Griak (Invitational) is the major focus,” said junior Doug Brady. “I think this weekend is a much smaller meet. It’s more of an intrasquad race.”
Brady won’t run at the Grand View Invitational, but he’ll cheer for the Bulldogs alongside Des Moines fans. Besides the hometown crowd, Friday’s meet welcomes a break from Drake’s travel-heavy schedule.
“Travelling starts to wear on you, especially when you balance a workload, so having the opportunity to be here and not have to sit on a bus for like eight hours helps,” Brady said.
From long trips to the longer collegiate season, Brady understands the challenges facing Drake’s six new runners.
“It’s being healthy, being strong and, for the freshmen, it’s getting through the season,” Brady said. “A lot of freshmen aren’t used to having a season that’s two, sometimes three weeks longer than high school, and running longer races, so making sure that they don’t peak too early is probably the key. That comes back to conference. That’s the race to do it.”
With the State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship approaching, sophomore Mariel Fulton and the Drake women look to improve on last season’s ninth place finish.
Before Drake’s title quest begins again, though, Fulton and the Bulldogs look to defy MVC standings.
“I think that we’re looking pretty strong, especially compared to last year and especially compared to what we’re ranked in the conference,” Fulton said. “I think we’re going to do a lot better than that.”
With MVC competition coming, Fulton will rest at the Grand View Invitational.
“He’s (head coach Dan Hostager) giving a few of us just a break, just so we can focus on (Roy) Griak (Invitational) the next weekend, which is more important,” Fulton said. “We’re keeping our mileage high this week. I think it’s really just to get some good, hard effort out there for everyone else.”
For Fulton, support plays a key role in Drake’s success.
“It really helps when you’re running by and having people there, even if it’s your own teammate or your friends,” Fulton said. “It’s really nice to have some support.”
A supportive team isn’t Drake’s sole weapon, though. After strong showings at the Bulldog 4K Classic and the Minnesota OZ Memorial, Drake looks to surprise the MVC faithful beginning with next weekend’s Roy Griak Invitational. For Fulton and the Bulldogs, support translates into strength.
“We have a way stronger team than last year, so it’s really nice,” Fulton said. “The goals are really just to place higher than last year and kind of push each other and kind of go for it.”