While cross country is a team sport, the individual efforts put out by each runner are what define the team’s success. One specific member of the Loyola men’s cross country team shows this effort through his passion for the sport. After running for the Ramblers for four years, redshirt senior Andy Fenske, a 22-year-old marketing and management major, has returned for a fifth year to run for the team.
Fenske first joined cross country during his sophomore year of high school. There, he competed in many cross country and track and field races, from the 400m to the 5K, and achieved numerous recognitions, including Runner of the Year and sixth overall runner in the Minnesota state meet his senior year. He also was recognized as a three-time all-state runner.
“I wasn’t really sure if I’d enjoy cross country at all,” Fenske said. “I did it just to make some friends. In high school, I liked the team aspect: working together for a common goal.”
As a freshman at Loyola, Fenske earned Second Team All-Horizon honors in 2011. During his sophomore year, he took part in the Horizon League Cross Country Championships. However, he experienced an illness that prevented him from competing in cross country during his junior year.
Eventually, he fought through the illness and became one of the top distance runners at Loyola. He was able to partake in six cross country meets as a senior, including the Missouri Valley Conference Championships and the Notre Dame Invitational. He also received the MVC Elite 18 Award the same year.
In 2013, Fenske applied for an internship at Google, thinking that his cross country career would be over when he was finished his senior year. In the summer of 2014, Google called him and offered him the job.
“My coach was talking about coming back to run since there’s a lot that I could accomplish and how I contribute a lot to the team,” he said. “I thought really hard about it. I could take the job, be done with school and be done with running. But with school, you’re going to be part of a team and be doing some awesome things with some great people.”
In the end, Fenske decided to follow his passion for running and decline the job offer, joining the Ramblers once more.
“I though, ‘I’m going to be working the rest of my life,’ and I really wanted to make the most of my running,” he said. “So, I turned down the job and decided to take up running again, since it’s kind of like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
According to Fenske, his decision was based on his feelings, despite being faced with opposition from loved ones. However, when he chose to call Google back and explain his decision, the company responded positively.
“They were actually really supportive of that decision,” Fenske said. “They gave me a second chance to be an intern. I will be going back in the summer as a full-time employee, so I could still run and get the job as well.”
This year, the Loyola men’s cross country team began its season taking second place in the Badger Season Opener in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sept. 5. Fenske, who did not run in the first meet in order to have more time to train, made his season debut at the Illinois State Invite in Normal, Illinois, on Sept. 12. He placed 27th with a final time of 25:25.
“The race was a good practice,” Fenske said. “I would say that our next step is to cut down on our times while keeping that pack pretty close together.”
Fenske’s teammates speak enthusiastically about him. They say that he shows great dedication both on and off the course.
“During freshman year, Andy was one of my closest friends, and he was like a mentor as well,” said sophomore Alex Baker. “He was just really dedicated and into running. That’s why he turned down the job. I think the decision was really awesome, because it was a tribute to his character.”
“He’s a great guy, a hard worker, and he’s a very tough competitor,” said senior teammate Sam Penzenstadler. “He fights really hard.”
Fenske plans to take the job offer from Google during the summer of 2015 and move to the Bay Area in California for the management position. Until then he will continue running at Loyola, following his love for the sport.
“I am really optimistic about being here at Loyola once more and still being with some of my best friends,” Fenske said. “They’re my family.”
The cross country team’s next race is the College of DuPage Invitational in Warrenville, Illinois, on Sept. 26.