On Friday, Sept. 5, Loyola men’s cross country team began its season with the Badger Season Opener in Madison, Wisconsin. Sam Penzenstadler, Nick Miller and Alex Baker led the men’s team to a second place finish, all with times under the 19-minute mark.
Penzenstadler, a senior, completed the 6K race with a final time of 18:16, finishing first in the competition.
“It was a good opener,” Penzenstadler said. “Everyone ran pretty well. We had a big pack in the middle and finished second in the meet, right behind Wisconsin. It was a great meet overall.”
Miller, a junior, was the second Rambler to finish for the men’s team with a final time of 18:42. He was the 14th runner to finish and overall achieved a personal time record.
“I think a lot of us ran better than we did for the same course last year, and that just shows how good of a summer we all had,” Miller said.
Not long after Miller crossed the finish line, Baker, a sophomore, finished 17th with a time of 18:45. According to Baker, he and the rest of the team have been getting progressively better
through training, which contributed to their success during the latest meet.
“As a team, we did better than last year,” Baker said. “Summer training was what helped us with how well we did.”
While these runners demonstrated their skill by leading the Ramblers, many others also showed dedication and improvement at the last meet. Along with Miller, four other Ramblers achieved a personal best time: junior Mitch Baum (19:02) and sophomores Jake Brown (19:04), Chandler Diffee (19:04) and Andrew Gifford (19:35).
With a challenging schedule ahead, the team finds its recent second place finish motivating for the upcoming events. Many players said that the sophomores were a big factor to Friday’s achievement, representing four of the seven top finishers for Loyola.
“The guys seemed all over the place last year as freshmen,” redshirt senior Andy Fenske said. “Gifford really stepped it up and impressed me a lot, exceeding my expectations. Diffee and Brown really showed that they did put in the miles and the work in this summer, so it’s really reassuring for us going towards the later end of the season.”
The runners give the coaching staff a lot of credit for their success, especially Head Coach Randy Hasenbank. Hasenbank has been leading both the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams for three years. He has been coaching at the collegiate level for 14 years.
“He’s the greatest coach,” Penzenstadler said. “He’s a super fun guy to be around … but when you’re in a competition, he gets down to business.”
The other members of the men’s cross country team also think highly of Hasenbank and his unique coaching methods.
“He definitely knows what he’s doing; he’s a pretty smart guy,” Baker said. “Over the summer, we did a lot of hill workouts so it gets us used to the hilly courses we run for competition. He’s also really motivated in the sport. So he kind of just pumps us up.”
Hasenbank is equally appreciative to be coaching the talented team.
“[It] means a great deal to me to be the coach of these guys. Coaching is my passion and I really take it seriously. I want the guys to have a great experience and make the most of their time as Division I student athletes. It is hard work. They are all really committed, very good students and easy to work with,” he said.
This Friday, Sept. 12, the team heads to Normal, Illinois, where it will compete in the Illinois State Invite. Other upcoming events include the College of DuPage Invitational in Warrenville, Illinois, on Sept. 26, and the Notre Dame Invitational in Notre Dame, Indiana, on Oct. 3. “ We’re really excited this year,” Fenske said. “Last year, we got second in the Missouri Valley Conference Championships during our first year in the Valley. We’re looking to win it as a team title this year. Looking at how well we did the last meet, it looks very possible.”