Captain's Blog: Brice Cleland - Oct. 20, 2010

Captain's Blog

by senior distance runner Brice Cleland:

Marquette men's cross country co-captain Brice Cleland stopped by to provide his thoughts on the 2010 NCAA Pre-National Invitational, in preparation for the BIG EAST Conference Championships on Oct. 30 in Jamesville, N.Y.

This is the second in a series of blogs on the 2010 season by the captains of the Marquette University men's and women's cross country teams.

Wednesday, Oct. 20 2010

We showed up in Terre Haute, Ind., on Friday afternoon before our race and went straight to the course and did our usual pre-meet routine of 5-6 miles and strides/drills. This is a very light day in general, with the goal of getting our legs moving but not fatiguing. On this trip we had 13 men and women running, down from the number from a week before. For our next race in 2 weeks, we will be down even further to the top-nine members of each team. 

On the pre-meet day, I felt like the team was very excited and everyone was feeling pretty good about how their race was going to go the next day. We followed the pre-meet by some excellent dining and grocery shopping (Kristin Pelzel was the last on the bus as usual) and an early night. This weekend was a "Top Gun" themed weekend, which was enjoyed by all on the bus ride home and during the race, we took a ride into the danger zone.

The next morning, the men's team got up at 8:30 a.m. to do a shakeout run, which is a 10-15 minute run that we do to wake ourselves up and get some blood flow to our legs. After this run, most had breakfast and started preparing for the race. By the time we got on the bus to leave for the meet, there was some nervousness in the air. After this race, the 13 runners will get whittled down to the nine that will go to the conference meet. That means that everyone has to perform and place themselves in the top nine to be able to go to the conference meet in Syracuse. So, it's easy to see why everyone was nervous.

We did our usual warmup down good ol' Swalls Road and started our drills before the race.  Each person on the team kind of goes into their own world by the time we start doing drills, preparing themselves for the 25-ish minutes of effort they are about to give. At 12:10 p.m., the gun went off and we were running down the 800 meter stretch that is slightly uphill. The thing about the Pre-Nationals race is that it is incredibly fast. For example, on this day, I went out in 4:42 for the mile, while at my last race in Madison, I went out in around 4:55 for the first mile. Needless to say, this is a tiring race.

Personally, I felt that my race was merely average. I felt great through 4k (as did every other runner in the field) and things went downhill from there. The course gets kind of hilly by the end, so this is understandable. Hills do seem to be bigger the second half of the race. I finished right around 25:00 which is about where I have in the majority of my races on this course. 

Blake "Silky" Johnson and Jack "Man Jack" Senefeld finished within 10 seconds, continuing excellent seasons and helping lead this team. Connor "Bro" Callahan and Peter "Pablo" Bolgert ran well to round out the top five. Keith Schueller, Spencer "Spagnew" Agnew, Jack Hackett, and Garrett McKnight all secured spots on the conference team with their performances at this meet. 

On the flipside, one of Marquette's great runners, Nick Szczech, ran what might be his last cross country race.  Although this was disappointing, he's going to run like a madman in track. In addition, Patrick "Ginger" Maag, Patrick Keeley, and freshman Bob Guthrie all finished off their season with good runs.

At this meet, we placed 27th out of 35 teams, and probably could have placed 24th out of 36 teams in the second of the two races of the day. Although this is lower than we hoped to place, we lacked a front-runner in this race to guide our team to a good team finish.  If I had placed higher in the race, we could have done significantly better as a team. At conference, I will be hunting for some redemption, and with a smaller field, we are going to perform well. Look for us to be in the top six at the Big East Championships.





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