Both the men’s and women’s Drake cross country teams found success at the Missouri Valley Conference Championship on Oct. 27 in Nashville, Tennessee. The men’s team placed first out of 11 teams, and the women’s team placed fourth out of 12 teams. Senior Brooke Mullins was the women’s cross country champion of the competition.
“It was good to get out there and put everything that I’ve been working for into progress,” Mullins said.
Mullins added that she had no idea how fast she was running until the women’s 6-kilometer race was completed.
On Nov. 2, head track and field and cross country coach Jay Koloseus won the title of MVC’s men’s cross country Coach of the Year, which is based on the votes of other MVC coaches.
“He’s the best coach I have ever seen,” Aziz Jdai, a junior on the men’s cross country team, said. “He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Koloseus is always looking for ways to improve the team.
“There’s still so much promise,” Koloseus said. “I feel like it hasn’t been as tremendous as it can be, but that’s college athletics.”
Koloseus sought out many members of the team himself through recruitment, a process that included international efforts. As a result, almost half of the team is made up of international students.
“The most gratifying thing I get to do day in and day out is to see different continents, different nationalities, ways of life come together and enjoy each other’s presence and work hard together,” Koloseus said.
On Nov. 10, both teams will compete at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship at the Greiner Family Cross Country Course at Oklahoma State University. In order for the men’s team to move on to the national championship, they will have to place in the top two teams. They will likely have to beat Iowa State and Oklahoma State, which have consistently ranked first and second in the Midwest region throughout the season, according to the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Drake has been ranked within the top five throughout the season, and Jdai has hope that they will make it.
“We have an opportunity,” Jdai said. “We will just go as hard as possible for it.”
To earn an individual spot at nationals, Mullins would have to be one of the first four runners to cross the finish line after the top two teams. Mullins said her MVC time gave her a lot of confidence going into regionals.
“I still don’t feel like I’ve reached my potential to see what I can truly do this season yet,” Mullins said. “Hopefully we’ll see that next Friday.”
Mullins said that while “on paper” the women’s team looks like it hasn’t made much progress, the team culture is at its strongest and most supportive.
“We got a new kind of love for each other, which is cool,” Mullins said. “Being a part of that is nice. It’s warming.”
According to Koloseus, the men’s team is “preparing for [regionals], making sure we’re not too arrogant going in, humbled by some tough runs we’ve had, but ready to compete against the best in the NCAA in our region.”
The men’s team is going into regionals ranked third. If either team makes it to nationals, their competitions will be held on Nov. 18 at Panorama Farms in Earlysville, Virginia. Koloseus hopes to place in the top five on the men’s side and “do things that we’ve never done here at Drake.”
Jdai was injured in January and spent six months not being able to run. He said he put in a lot of hard work over the summer to prepare for the cross country season.
“He even said to himself, ‘I didn’t know if I’d ever run as fast as I did.’ He’s setting PRs,” Koloseus said.
Jdai finished ninth in the men’s 8K race at the MVC Championship with a time of 24 minutes and 56.4 seconds.
Junior Enzo Marie has been running 100 miles each week to prepare for championships. Marie finished fourth in the MVC Championship men’s 8K race with a time of 24 minutes and 39 seconds.
“When you’re in a race, to be with your friends running on the same field is so cool,” Marie said.
Directly after the cross country season is the indoor track season. Many of the cross country team members also run in the track season and use cross country to prepare for track.
“For now, I’m only focused on the end of the cross country season,” Marie said.
From now until next season, the cross country team will continue to run towards their goals.