What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet;
-Romeo and Juliet
Throw out a slew of names – Cecil Sapp, Bradlee Van Pelt, Michelle Knox, Ashley Augsburger – and you can probably conjure up a visual image or a least associate the name with a team.
Throw out some others – Bill Michel, Dylan Olchin, Austin Vigil, Meg Larson, Katie Yemm, Jen Kintzley – and you’re probably stumped.
Yet, the latter athletes, along with about 14 others, make up one of the hardest working teams in the nation and I have the evidence to prove it.
It begins with the same daily routine. Roll out of bed around 7 a.m., lace up the shoes and go out for a 30-minute run called “the morning run”.
This is just the beginning of a long day in the life of a CSU cross country runner.
Following a day of classes, the team meets at the South College Field House to do some stretching and warm-ups before beginning practice.
For these men and women, the training varies day-by-day from running intervals at a five-minute mile pace to doing training runs at the beat of six to six and a half minutes per mile.
Add it all up and they are running about 85 miles per week at a very fast pace, hitting the weight room at least twice a week and taking a full load of classes, all while trying to fit some type of social activity into their schedule. No wonder there are only about 25 of them.
And it’s not like this is a three-month routine that ends when the cross country season is over either – it’s a yearly cycle that carries them from cross country in the fall to indoor track in the winter to outdoor track in the spring.
Being a member of CSU’s cross country and track and field teams now for four years, junior Bill Michel has learned to prepare himself for each individual season.
“During the summer I try to build a strong mileage base,” Michel said. “I go on longer runs and try to keep my miles up to get ready for the (cross country) season.”
Running a lot in the summer to get ready to run even more in the fall? Is this computing for anyone else?
The work ethic of these athletes is remarkable, and head cross country coach Del Hessel can attest to that.
In mid-October with his team preparing to face its biggest challenge in a meet in North Carolina, Hessel ripped into some of his athletes for having run before the team’s meeting.
“Why do you think I scheduled this meeting at 4(p.m.)?” he asked the room of dumbfounded athletes. “I did it because I did not want you running today.”
Cross country is one of those rare sports where a coach gets after the athletes for over-training, not under-training.
And it’s not all about running either. There is a deep-rooted mental aspect involved in the sport which very few runners manage to master before finishing their careers.
For an example of this, one should look no further than the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 27, where the Rams’ men’s squad of seven “blew up” mentally and finished a disappointing 27th overall.
To go through this kind of yearly physical and mental pain, one can see how these athletes are brimming with toughness.
Not the smash-mouth, bone-crushing toughness seen in some other athletes, but the mental and dedicatory toughness that only the best athletes obtain.
True, names like Josh Glaab or Kim Watson are not going to raise any eyebrows, nor be the topic of many sports-related conversations. Nevertheless, they are the names we should associate with one of the toughest teams in the nation.