Stags’ Cross Country Team Conquers the Field

Once again, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps cross-country team ran its way through the finish line and onto the podium. The men’s team finished first and the women placed second at the NCAA West Regionals held at Pomona College on Saturday, Nov. 14, finishes that qualified both for the NCAA Division III National Championships in Winneconne, Wis., next week.

Zorg Loustalet HM ‘16 led the Stags with a third place finish in 25:28.76, followed by Evan Molineux CM ‘16 in eighth place. Jack Wilson CM ‘16, Kevin Huang HM ‘18 and Joshua Sealand HM ‘17 helped solidify the Stags’ win over the 19 teams and 126 runners competing.

“Our team overall ran pretty well,” Wilson said. “I think we were focused on just winning the meet and making it to nationals rather than giving our maximum performance. I don’t think it was an amazing race for us, but I think we just did what we needed to do and now we can focus on next week’s meet at nationals.”

The Athenas also ran very well this past Saturday, with seven runners earning All-Region honors. Bridget Blum CM ‘16 earned a fifth-place finish with a time of 21:58.59, which helped her team accrue an 18-point lead over second-ranked Whitworth University.

Although the Athenas are accustomed to getting first, Blum cited an unexpected challenge from teams they hadn’t raced against yet this year.

“We just didn’t really know what to expect, we were kind of assuming that the teams would be like in years past, but they were really good, which was kind of a surprise,” she said. “But the team itself is doing really well. We have a really strong team and really deep one.” 

Despite being a senior, this is only Blum’s second season running cross-country in college. After earning All-American honors her first year, she was sidelined for two years with a torn hip flexor. Needless to say, she’s excited to be competing again.

“It’s been kind of difficult not running the past two years because I had a lot of goals that I wanted to meet, so it was really frustrating. But I’m looking to be an All-American again and I’m hoping to place better than I did freshman year.”

Blum and her fellow runners rely on an intense workout schedule that begins at 6 a.m. and usually has them running 50 to 55 miles per week. Asked if she dreads the 5:30 a.m. wake-up call, Blum brushed it off and said it’s just something they get used to.

“It was kind of hard freshman year, but it’s not that bad,” Blum said. “I actually find that I get more sleep during the season than I do out of the season. You know you have to go to bed at a certain time, so you just adjust to the pace.”

As for practice, the cross country coaches have the athletes running base jumps, various workouts and long runs—tiring to the legs, but freeing up the mind to focus on the pain.

“Usually when I’m running with my teammates, we’ll talk,” Wilson said. “If I’m by myself I let my mind wander and it allows me to process things at the end of the day, but if I’m doing a hard workout, I’m really in the zone and really just focused on how much I have left before I can be done.”

Blum, however, has a different method to workouts.

“I personally love listening to music when I run by myself,” she said. “I think I might be the only one on the team who does it, though. Most people don’t because they would rather listen to their body, but I love it. It distracts me from just running around a track a million times.”

Headphones, however, aren’t permitted during races, so Blum has to rely on self-motivation to keep her focused and determined, a unique skill that is prevalent among top runners. Yet she and Wilson both look to their teammates for an extra boost of energy during races.

“Before races we tell each other that we’re racing for each other, so you get the feeling that everyone’s out there rooting for you and your teammates,” Blum said. “You’re not running against your teammates; you’re running with them. We’re all suffering together, and we all know how painful it is, so we all relate in that way and push each other.”

Both the Stags and Athenas will be looking to their teammates this upcoming weekend as they compete for the NCAA DIII Championships in Winneconne, Wis., where the forecast is 30 degrees Fahrenheit this weekend. Although the teams have been practicing without long sleeves or gloves in the chilly California mornings, it will be a rough adjustment to those freezing racing conditions. But for Blum and Wilson, who are both graduating this spring, this meet also represents the culmination of their racing careers.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs throughout the whole process over the last four years, so I’m hoping to have fun,” Blum said.

Wilson echoed similar sentiments.

“The best we’ve ever finished is 11th my freshman year, so hopefully we can at least do a little better than that,” he said. “It would be great if I could finish out my CMS career by being on the best team ever.”

As for the future of the CMS cross-country team, neither of the seniors are worried.

“There’s going to be a lot of good seniors leaving, but there’s a lot of depth on the team right now and a lot of people that are moving up,” Blum said. “So I think in the future we could be a much better team. I think it’s really promising. People are really stepping up.”

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