Leadership, consistency keys to success for men’s cross-country

Emily Hejlik

The ISU men’s cross-country team is working towards putting their program back on the map this coming season.

“I’m very excited for this year, we have a good chance to surprise some people,” said senior Charlie Paul. “Any time you get the chance to put the program back in the spotlight is a special opportunity.”

Last year ended in disappointment as the men failed to qualify for nationals, finishing sixth at regional finals.

The team was made up of young, inexperienced runners a season ago, with the only senior being Rico Loy, who has completed his cross-country eligibility. One source of leadership will come from Paul, the lone senior this year.

“I fill the leadership role without consciously knowing it,” Paul said. “I am trying to be the best example inside and outside of practice and I am willing to do anything to help the team be successful. Everyone will help in a different capacity when it comes to being a leader.”

Another runner looked upon for guidance this year will be junior Nick Schulze.

“We have a lot of different leaders on this team, even though we are young,” Schulze said. “I look to lead by living the lifestyle, doing things the right way whether that’s in the training room or in practice. We have a better system in place now where everyone hangs out, which helps build camaraderie and leadership.”

Even with such a young squad, the team feels the need to succeed.

“Coach always talks about having a sense of urgency and I’ve really taken that to heart,” Schulze said. “There have been times I didn’t think I would continue to run anymore because of my injuries. I have a new appreciation and even though the majority of our team are underclassmen, the time to succeed is now.”

Qualifying for nationals and making top three in their conference are a few of the many goals the team hopes to accomplish this year. To achieve these goals, an increase in consistency during practice and meets are key.

“Last year was disappointing because I didn’t think we ran to our full potential,” said associate coach Travis Hartke. “We struggled finishing out races, which comes from our inexperience. I can’t reiterate enough how important consistency will be for our guys.”

Hartke is optimistic about the group in place for this year.

“We have a team that is capable of making big improvements,” Hartke said. “So many guys are in great shape and the depth is there. We are very underrated and probably have 16-18 solid guys. I am excited to see people step up.”

The ISU men’s cross-country team will compete for the first time this season on Friday at the Drake Fall Classic in Des Moines.