The cross country teams head to Augusta, Kansas today where Wichita State hosts the MVC Championships. RAFT Golf Course will host today’s event.
Before the runners get in the starting shoots, Chas Davis took time to answer a few questions about the conference meet and his team.
In the pre-championship poll, the Bluejays will have their work cut out for them. The men were selected 9th ouf of 9. On the women’s side, they were picked 10th out of 10. A year ago the men finished 9th and the women placed 9th. Chris Culhane did not run in this meet a year ago. Expect him to lead the men. Freshmen Slaine Kelly and Hannah Krumreich have been leading the women’s team all season. Let’s see how they compare to the best in the Valley.
White & Blue Review: It’s been two weeks since the last meet for most runners on the team. How have you used the two weeks to get them prepared?
Chas Davis: Most of the physical preparation was already in the bank a couple weeks ago. There were a couple important workouts we still needed to do, but by and large it has involved preparing for the right mind set going in. Fall break helped our runners de-stress a lot and take care of themselves better, very important to be well rested and focused this time of year. We’ve tapered the volume with the absence of our weekly long run (11 – 16 plus miles depending on gender and experience) and reduced the volume of quality workouts. This taper was more dramatic for those already running at higher volumes. So we’ve rested them more in the last two weeks, but the main message has been “keep doing what you’ve been doing before your good races this season and don’t over-think this.” Practice hasn’t been any more intense, and I don’t sense the atmosphere has been either. Just a steady day-to-day routine of going about our normal business.
WBR: With a lot of freshmen and sophomores on the team, how have they held up with the rigors of running Division I cross country?
CD: Knowing the age, experience and numbers of our program, I’ve chosen to cautiously train and race most of our runners, especially the younger ones. The most important thing this season was to keep everyone healthy, which keeps everyone consistent. We’ve largely achieved this with the men and if it weren’t for a series of inexplicable illnesses with our women, they would have emerged unscathed as well. But without a single serious impact/over-use related injury on the team this season, this approach has worked well. That also means that I believe our freshmen have had the chance to adapt gradually. Figuring out how to balance school work with the time demands of the team has actually proven to be more challenging. Many cross country/track programs have the luxury of red-shirting their freshmen to allow for that gradual acclimation, when we usually need them to contribute immediately. So again, we’ve largely progressed/remained at the pace that suits them best right now. Ask me that question again this May after we’ve really begun putting them through “the rigors of running Division I cross country” starting in December.
WBR: It’s going to the first conference meet for a majority of the runners. What is the mindset going in?
CD: Enjoy the experience but make sure we don’t walk out of that finish chute without having learned a lot. With many more big meets and conference championships to come for most of these runners, I think they get the luxury of not having a ton of pressure on them at this point. Without sky-high expectations and a ton at stake here, they don’t have to go to bed with their brains running full speed or step to the line with overwhelming butterflies. There will come a time when we are in a better position to do some serious damage, but those future veterans will have had the luxury of learning the ropes gradually with better experience because of it. If we can ride that bus home from Wichita at peace with the honest effort laid out on that course, we’ll have cemented another layer of foundation.
WBR: The pre-championship polls have the men picked 9th (out of 9) and the women 10th (out of 10). Do you use that as motivation?
CD: To be honest, there might have been a time and place I used to, but I’m not convinced that necessarily provides any more fuel right now. There are no miracles in this sport. Teams and individuals generally race where their current fitness and preparation allows. Although we still have another jump in performance in us, the pre-championship polls do accurately reflect what the results so far would forecast. I choose to focus less on what the other coaches think and more on how much our runners have committed and sacrificed for this opportunity. To run with any less than the utmost heart, passion and fire we can muster would cheapen everything we’ve worked so hard for. Might as well do this race justice.
WBR: For the fifth year in a row and six of the seven, Creighton has taken home MVC Academic Award. The women’s team in the top 10 percent of all teams in the NCAA. Both teams had GPA’s better than 3.20. Any secrets on how you stress academics to your runners?
CD: If there is a secret, I don’t know it. They actually take care of that all by themselves. Most students come to Creighton to accept the challenge and reward of rigorous academics and a great education. Our student-athletes are no different.