This weekend the cross-country team traveled all the way to Lewis University in Romeoville, IL, for their competition. It was a rather unique race due to the fact they were the only Division III teams there.
The other nine teams for the men (and 10 for the women) were from Division II. The competition also included Grand Valley State who is ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in Division II on the men’s and women’s side, respectively. Perfect fall temperatures and little wind provided ample opportunities for good performances.
One of the factors going into the race for the Duhawks was that this race doesn’t have much of an effect on national rankings due to the lack of other Division III teams. This meant that the Duhawks changed up their typical racing strategies to try something new. For two Duhawks in particular, the changes worked.
On the women’s side, first-year Audrey Miller finished as the No. 4 runner for the Duhawks, which is the highest she’s ever placed on the team. She ran a 23:52 — almost a full minute off her best time three weeks ago at the Augustana Invite.
“I felt really good about (it). Saturday was a beautiful day with perfect running weather. The course was also very flat,” she said about the race.
Miller finished three places behind junior Emily Day. The duo ended up running almost the whole race together.
Miller said, “My strategy was to run in a pack with Emily Day, Lindsey Gidel and Kelly Minear. I knew our first mile was going to be faster than my usual pace, so I really focused on maintaining the new pace without getting tired out.”
The pack separated during the race, but since she stuck with Day, it made the run easier for her.
“It was great running with Emily because she’s good at pacing during races,” she said about her teammate. “Running in a pack is so much better because the girls on the team are really supportive during the race. Emily was constantly telling me, ‘Good job!’”
Pack running is one of the focuses of Coach Schultz’s training, and she’s thankful for it.
“That’s one thing I love about Loras’ cross-country team. Pack running is a priority. When I was in high school, everyone ran races by themselves. It’s so much nicer having a common goal instead of everyone trying to out-run (their teammates).”
On the team’s goal of qualifying for the national championship meet, Miller said, “I’m really optimistic. We have a great team, and everyone has been working hard and putting in lots of miles.”
On the men’s side, junior Colin Ensminger also broke into new territory, finishing as the team’s No. 7 runner for the first time. He also broke the 27-minute mark in an 8K, running a 26:45 race.
“It’s hard not to feel good about breaking into the top seven,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve worked towards for a while, and for it to finally happen, it means a lot. I think that it put me in a good spot to be able to help out my team as much as I can.”
In cross country, the top five runners on the team are the runners who actually score for the team. So, the sixth, seventh and other runners’ jobs are to put themselves in front of other teams’ runners and take away points from them. Ensminger also changed up his mentality on the race.
“I’ve started to find my own racing strategy,” he said. “If I can go out on pace and really push in the middle miles, I don’t break down mentally during miles 3 and 4. I end up finishing stronger than the rest of the field.”
When asked about the end of the season approaching, he said, “I’m feeling anxious right now because, for me at least, it’s unchartered territory. I also feel excited and ready to go as ever since I now have a bigger responsibility to the team.”
The Duhawks host the Loras Invitational this Friday night at the Dubuque Soccer Complex on the corner of Kennedy Road and NW Arterial.