The 2016 season for the Loyola cross country teams was full of unnecessary stops and starts. It was a season defined more by injuries and illnesses than by races. This season, the Ramblers are putting an added focus on remaining healthy through the whole season.
Keeping injuries to a minimum can be hard when training so intensely, but both coaches Mircea Bogdan and Alan Peterson are taking extra precautions with the team this season.
“Keeping people healthy and avoiding injuries [is going to be the biggest challenge],” Bogdan said. “Last year we did a good job of keeping people healthy in terms of injuries, but we weren’t very healthy in terms of sickness. We had a lot of people with colds and all kinds of stuff. The goal is to keep people healthy. Taking things a little more seriously in terms of keeping people accountable, making sure we are doing our stretching and our ice baths. Make sure that every time we have any sort of pain or discomfort we go see the trainers right away.”
With the graduation of Jake Brown, Chandler Diffee and Jamison Dale, the three top runners of the 2016 men’s team, the current members of the team have been going through intense training to beat its 2016 regional score of 453 points, well behind the University of Missouri’s top score of 83. In cross country, the goal is to get the lowest score possible and every place translates to a point. If a runner finishes first, the team earns one point. If a runner finishes second, the team earns two points. Bogdan knows that his team is capable of placing in the top-15 at regionals.
“I think the mileage we do this year is going to help us transition and be a little more fit for the six-mile race,” Bogdan said. “I think we are doing 10-20 percent more miles every month.”
The men’s team ranked fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) preseason poll with 52 points. The coaches and athletes alike said they know they are capable of scoring higher in those rankings. The team is hoping its hard offseason training will help them get there.
“We are preseason fourth and I know we are trying to move up to second or third,” junior Kevin White said. “I think this first meet will be a telling of our work so far.”
Like the men’s team, the women’s team has been training all summer and is focused on recovery and staying healthy. Having two of its top runners, redshirt junior Lindsey Brewis and senior Emma Hatch, injured early, made for a rough 2016 season.
“Without being healthy, you aren’t training consistently, and without training consistently, you aren’t going to do what you are expected to do and what you know you can do,” Peterson said. “I always preach the little things, like icing or going in our Normatecs [a recovery tool] and just doing everything you can to prepare yourself for the next season.”
With no losses to its roster during the offseason and everybody healed, Hatch believes the team has what it takes to surpass its regional score from last season. Peterson believes the new additions to the team will add to its current group of core women and make it even stronger.
“Everyone is racing really well together,” Hatch said. “We have a really strong pack this year. The seniors have been really putting in the work and it’s all finally coming together. So, racing with all of the seniors together and just knowing that everybody is putting it all out there is just really great.”
Brewis said the team is excited to go back to the Louisville Classic on Sept. 30 to compete against many Division I, II and III teams. Still, the Ramblers have another major event on their minds — the MVC Meet.
“In conference, we really have a shot to win it this year,” Brewis said. “We haven’t [won conference] in my time at Loyola, so I think it will be a fantastic way to cap off senior year, with a conference win. I think we have the capability to do so.”
The first race of the season was Sept. 8 at the Illinois State Invitational in Normal. The men’s team placed third overall with 96 points and the women’s team also finished third overall with 87 points. Baker was first overall for men with an 8K time of 25:02.7 and Brewis finished second overall for women with a time of 17:17.1 in the 5K.
The Ramblers are scheduled to compete in the National Catholic Championships at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana Sept. 15.