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This year’s cross-country team is off to a “very good competitive start,” says head coach Chuck Wilcoxen. Both the men’s and women’s teams have had great success so far this season. The two teams are made up of about 20 runners each, a big turnout compared to past years. A highlight of the last few weeks was the men’s team finish as the top Midwest team at Les Duke Invite, with Drew Clark finishing as the men’s individual race champion. Women’s cross was named top SLIAC team at the Brissman-Lundeen Invitational with its highest finish in team history. The team is looking forward to future opportunities to shine.

Runners stretch after a quick warm-up jog. photo / Mallory Lee

Coach Wilcoxen attributes the team’s achievement to the runners’ devotion to the sport and their teammates.  He says they “support each other emotionally and in real tangible ways. They’re very generous that way.” This spirit of giving makes for great team leadership as well. Not only experienced runners, but “first year runners can contribute meaningful moments of leadership, and they do,” says Wilcoxen. Junior Jake Meier says for him the highlight of cross-country is the “effort [he sees] in everyone else.” “On regular occasions,” he explains, “I have good races because teammates are there to push me to run my best.”

The Cross Country men loosen their legs before their most difficult workout of the week. photo / Mallory Lee

Tactically, the team has great strengths as well.  Dedicated summer training set the team up for a fast start. Besides being “flat out fast,” as Wilcoxen says of the runners, “they’re patient with their training” and equally as important, “they’re patient with their racing.” A great coaching staff supports the team as well. Recent graduate Kateland Oakes is a long-time cross-country runner and a dedicated team leader. For the past two years she has served as the assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s teams. Assistant coach Phil Green is a great proponent of the sport as well. These two exemplary coaches, as well as others in the community, continue to participate and help out with the team each year. Under their leadership, Wilcoxen says, “workouts run enthusiastically.” The work in itself is rewarding, and “competitive success is just frosting on the cake.”

What does the future look like for cross-country at Principia? An exciting development is set for action. The college “just started cutting a new trail across the street,” says Wilcoxen, which will likely be developed into one of the top courses in the country. In fact, he says the school is “going to bid to host the national championships within the next five years,” representing an incredible opportunity for Prin.

Sophomore Aubrey McMullin takes the lead in the women’s warm-up jog. photo / Mallory Lee

In the nearer future, the Cowbell Classic is coming up on Friday, October 7. This exciting race, although certainly a tough course, is one of the most exciting for Principia runners as it is held on Principia’s own trails. Come out and support your team!

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