Last Friday, Oct. 24, Loyola cross country completed its regular season at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Illini Open. While not many Ramblers participated in the meet, it was the last step before the men’s and women’s teams get ready for conference and regionals.
Cross country will begin its postseason this Saturday, Nov. 1, with the Missouri Valley Conference Championships in Carbondale, Illinois. The postseason races are the pinnacle of the season, and performing well at these meets has been the goal throughout the season.
“We really want to take number one and win it,” junior Mitch Baum said. “We’ve been working the entire summer and the entire season for conference in particular.”
Meets such as regionals and nationals will be more of an individual effort for each of the runners. Conference will be the last time for the team to work together as a whole, according to Baum.
The women’s team has also been in training for the conference meet.
“We’ve started cutting down our mileage and doing some quicker speed work,” freshman Emma Hatch said.
On Oct. 18, the runners competed in the NC A A Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana. The race helped determine how the team will do in future post-season meets. The teams’ star players completed the races with high placements, as they have for the entire regular season. Men’s senior Sam Penzenstadler placed second overall, and women’s junior Sydney Stuenkel placed eighth.
“We knew that we could do really well [at Pre-Nationals],” sophomore Chandler Diffee said. “We were one of the best teams; we went out and tried to stick to the front, and we ended up getting third. The exertion of the team was pretty good.”
The coaching staff has been integral in the Ramblers’ training. Randy Hasenbank, who is the head coach of both cross country teams, gets high praise from the men’s runners for his efforts in helping them succeed.
In past competitions and preparing for future races, such as the upcoming conference and regional meets.
“He truly puts his life into our team,” Baum said. “He spends days and nights thinking about our goals and what we want to achieve. He’s never off duty as a coach, and he puts his heart and soul into the program.”
Assistant Coach Jackie Kropp focuses on getting the Rambler women to improve their times and running performances, according to Hatch.
“You could always go up to her and ask her questions about your training and where you want to be in the race,” she said. “She’s definitely well-informed on all aspects of running and training.”
Two weeks after the MVC Championships, on Nov. 14, Loyola heads to Peoria, Illinois, to compete in the NCAA Midwest Regionals. If the Ramblers succeed in that meet, they will head back to Terre Haute on Nov. 22 for the NCAA Championships.
“We want to put our names out there and prove to the region that Loyola is more than just some regular school,” Baum said.