Team building and depth promote success for XC teams

Caitlyn Diimig

For the sixth year, the men’s and women’s ISU cross-country teams started their season Aug. 14-18 by doing team-building activities at Pine Bluff 4H Camp in Decorah, Iowa.

“The great part about the camp is that no cellphones work out there; there are no distractions,” said assistant head coach Travis Hartke. “It’s the one place where we talk about our team, what we want to get done, the goal for this year and how we’re going to do it.”

The camp allows freshmen and transfer students to get to know their new teammates.

“We played a lot of games, did a canoe trip, went tubing down the river; it was fun getting to know everybody,” said freshman Alec Baldwin.

The team bonding seems to be paying off, as Hartke believes the athletes are on the same page about what they want to accomplish.

“For the first time I feel like everybody on the team is doing it, you know is in this, working really hard every day, doing all the little things to get the team to the level they want it at,” Hartke said.

Hartke cited depth as being a successful factor for both teams.

“On the guys’ side, I could see 14 different people being in our top seven,” he said.

He named sophomore Martin Coolidge, senior Rico Loy and freshmen Edward Kemboi as being standouts for this year’s men’s team.

Coolidge finished 27th and Loy finished 19th in the 2010 Big 12 Cross Country Championship. Kemboi ran 1 minute, 47 seconds in the 800-meter dash last year.

“Our women’s side should be as good or better than they were last year,” Hartke said.

The women’s team placed eighth in last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championship.

“We’re going to be a lot more competitive in the Big 12 this year. Hopefully, we’ll be even more competitive than last year at the national level,” said senior Dani Stack.

Standouts on the women’s side include Stack, junior Betsy Saina, senior Meaghan Nelson and senior Semehar Tesfaye.

Stack placed fourth in the 10,000-meter NCAA Outdoor Championships and Saina placed third in the 5,000-meter NCAA Indoor Championships.

Hartke believes the next three spots could be anyone’s on the women’s team.

“That’s a good problem to have,” Hartke said.