|Cross country seniors’ season nearing the end of the road|
|Written by Ashley Schrader, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Monday, 08 November 2010 22:06|
The legendary Oregon coach and Olympian Bill Dellinger once said, “Good things come slow—especially in distance running.”
For ISU cross country seniors Matt Mroczynski and Jon Roberts, their successful Redbird running careers established slowly with a great amount of work, but their years on the cross country team have flown by, similar to a sprinting race.
“I’m trying not to think about [this Regional being my last one] too much; I’m trying to keep my mind on other things,” Mroczynski said. “But it has really crept up. I’m really looking at it just to run well; anything else will be icing on the cake.”
The lone seniors on the men’s cross country team will potentially face their final career race at the NCAA Midwest Regional Saturday at Peoria, Ill., where each hopes to qualify for Nationals to prolong their season for one last race.
“Top-25 All-Regional is a preliminary goal for both of [Mroczynski and Roberts],” ISU head coach Jeff Bovee said.
“Matt has had his eye on an individual qualifying berth for four years and he has been a stand out runner for us for four straight years. I would love to see him be able to come out and qualify for the National Championship meet and take that next step in his career,” he added.
With Mroczynski and Roberts each earning All-Valley honors at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships Oct. 30, making it to the NCAA Championships is the remaining goal for the two seniors.
“I think things are going in the right direction and hopefully I will have my best race at Regionals and extending my season,” Mroczynski said.
And with 33 schools from states like Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota competing in the Regional meet, the field of runners in the men’s 10K race will not only be large, but also tough.
Four nationally ranked teams will compete at Newman Golf Course. No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 12 Minnesota, No. 17 Tulsa and No. 22 Iowa State are all ranked teams looking to beat out the competition to qualify for Nationals.
The strong field of runners leaves the ISU men’s team with a definite challenge, making Saturday a much more individual race compared to any other meet throughout the season.
“Our regional is very challenging. Two teams will qualify from each region and there will be 13 teams getting at large bids; somewhere from 12th to 18th place will qualify individually,” Bovee said.
“In 2007 the Regional was at the Bradley course and four teams made it out and the fourth individual qualifying was 15th or 17th and the time was around 30:40 for 10,000 meters,” he added.
Despite running against extremely talented runners, Mroczynski and Roberts will run an extra 2K. As a vast majority of regular season races being 8K for men, the Regional meet will be a 10K, a factor that could be beneficial for long distance runners and potentially detrimental for middle distance runners.
“The 10K race intimidates a lot of people but I feel my training has been geared towards a 10K race so I think I will run well,” Mroczynski said. “I don’t think the extra 2K will affect us [as a team] that much.”
The longer race may not be something the seniors pay much attention to, but running their own race and doing what they are familiar with is.
As the most experienced runners on the men’s team, Mroczynski and Roberts have learned sticking to their own race style will almost always result in a positive race. And with Saturday being a “make it or break it” race, familiarity and experience will can be a major advantage.
The NCAA Midwest Regional meet will be the second time the ISU men’s team have raced at the course in Peoria, Ill. Although the runners will do an extra loop for the 10K race, the seniors are greatly familiar with the course.
“The men have run the course minus one extra loop, everyone has seen the course and are familiar with it,” Bovee said. “I really think that will help, being in Peoria have competed there, they are comfortable in that town and being close to home we get to sleep in our beds the night before. That known factor will definitely benefit us.”
Mroczynski and Roberts will join the rest of the Redbirds to run in the men’s race with the gun going off at 12:15 Saturday afternoon.