After a long and turbulent off-season due to uncertainty caused by COVID-19, the MC men’s and women’s cross country teams will be back in action on Sept. 19 when they travel to Huntsville, AL, to race in the UAH Charger Invite. This will be the first athletic event for any MC athlete since early March when the Gulf South Conference cancelled the rest of the spring season.
Even with COVID-19 still present, senior and women’s team captain Madeline Campbell believes the team will be able to put their nerves aside in order to race well. “There might be some nerves, but I also think we’ve been waiting so long to have a race–we haven’t had a race in over 6 months–I think people are probably more excited. I know I’m more excited than nervous, so I think that will help us to have a really great meet.”
Men’s team captain and fellow senior Jake Russell also feels the excitement in the air, and he believes that the meet can be a building block for the team and can showcase their camaraderie. “I think our team is super excited about the meet coming up. My expectation is to just have a good meet with a lot of fast times. We haven’t raced in so long, and so everyone is really anxious to get out there and run a great time. I think one of our bigger goals for our team is to stay together, to pack run. Work as a team and be together. A lot of times, when you have no other faith in anything else, you have your team with you. Sometimes when you’re struggling, your team is the only thing right there beside you. If we can get into this race, and finish strong and stay together through the whole thing, that will be a great encouragement to the team and to everybody.”
Campbell mentioned how she also believes the team will be able to employ pack running (when a team runs close together in order to communicate strategy together and to achieve a goal such as a certain pace): “I think we’re really excited. I think we’re gonna put down some really good times. I think we’re gonna be able to do a lot of pack running, which I think everyone is really excited for. We haven’t gotten to do that as much. I’m confident that we’re gonna have a good race and that people are going to run well and run hard. They’re ready.”
Practice has been going really well for both teams and has them prepared for this meet and the season according to Russell, who added, “I think practice has been going phenomenal. From the girls’ side to the guys’ side, we have been learning so much about everyone on our team and how we run. We have been pushing each other to our limits every day we get on the track or the cross country course or every time we get on the fields, we’re always pushing one another. I think our team is really pushing for some good things this year from what practice has shown me.”
Both Russell and Campbell say the team has been extra careful in following guidelines so that the team can be full heading into the meet. Campbell added, “I think we have prepared well with the virus. We have been really careful as a team to take the necessary precautions so that we have all of our athletes healthy and ready to go. In that aspect we are definitely ready.”
The NCAA did cancel the national championships for cross country this fall, but Russell still believes the team has a lot to accomplish this season. “Not having NCAA’s is a bummer. Both the women’s and the men’s side, we both think we’re prepared to make it to nationals. We have been training so hard for so long. I think this is a very pivotal moment in the program. For this year, I think we have really good freshmen coming in. One of our expectations for the season is to have a great season with them and make sure we get them established to how we run…Honestly, this season is a season where we can build up and be stronger for next year so we can make it to nationals.”
Cross country is one of just two sports, alongside golf, still competing at MC this fall. The teams themselves will also have a shorter season than usual with just three scheduled meets, including the Charger Invite, before the GSC championships which are currently scheduled for late October. Even with an off-season and season like none other, once the race begins on Sept. 19, all will be normal for a little while.