ISU men’s cross country team enters championship season with momentum


Redshirt junior Brian Llamas, left, and senior Martin Coolidge run in the men’s competition at the Bulldog 4K Classic in Des Moines on Aug. 29.

Kyle Heim

After finishing the regular season ranked No. 30 in the nation, the ISU men’s cross country team has refocused its theme to staying in the hunt.

Iowa State placed fifth at the Roy Griak Invitational and 19th at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational to end the regular season. The team now turns its focus to championship season.

With the Big 12 Championships, NCAA Midwest Regional and NCAA Championships awaiting on the schedule, ‘hunting season’ has just begun for the Cyclones.

“We’ll go into the championship season hoping to capitalize on some of the mistakes we’ve already made,” said ISU men’s assistant cross country coach Jeremy Sudbury. “The biggest thing we can do is focus on what we can control. We’ve had a couple of opportunities that we missed, but at the same time, we did a nice job in terms of keeping ourselves in the game.”

Senior Martin Coolidge has played a key role in keeping the team in races. Coolidge placed fifth at the Griak Invitational and 19th at the Wisconsin Invitational. His two finishes led Iowa State in both events.

Aside from Coolidge, freshman Dan Curts and sophomore Christian Delago have also helped factor into the team’s performances this season. Curts finished fourth on the team at the Griak Invitational and second on the team at the Wisconsin Invitational.

“[Curts] has come in and done a nice job of transitioning and not being intimidated by the college level,” Sudbury said. “Delago did a nice job for us in terms of stepping in [at Wisconsin].”

Delago competed in his first race for the team at Wisconsin and was the third ISU runner to cross the finish line at the event.

Curts and Delago helped replace two of the team’s top runners at the Wisconsin Invitational.

Iowa State has utilized a pack strategy throughout the first portion of the season, but may have to make adjustments as the team prepares for the Big 12 Championships.

“Every race is different,” said redshirt junior Brian Llamas. “We don’t know what the game plan is until we get there. Sometimes we run as a pack and sometimes we read the races and go off how we feel. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Every meet is a different type of race.”

The team will transition from a competition with more than 200 athletes in Madison, Wis. to fewer than 100 runners at the Big 12 Championships in Lawrence, Kan.

The team hopes to finish third at the Big 12 Championships and duplicate the success they had last year when they placed second place at the championships.

“As a team, we all want to perform at our highest level,” Llamas said. “We want to run our best race and get the highest place possible as a team. If we can do that, it’ll keep the ball rolling for regionals and from then on we’ll see what happens.”