The cross country men’s team ranked 20th in the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) NCAA Division II National coaches’ poll and third in the central region’s preseason poll. In the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) coaches’ poll the team was ranked second behind Augustana. Each week of the season, the USTFCCCA will release new poll results for regional and national standings.
“It’s a good ranking to have and it gives us confidence that people have the faith in us,” said senior captain Brady Speicher, “but as a team, we have set goals that are higher and we hope to exceed that but it’s nice to have that recognition.”
At preseason this time last year, the team was ranked fifth in the central region and unranked nationally in the USTFCCCA poll. The team qualified in regionals and moved on to the championship, placing 21st nationally.
This year marks the third year the team expects to go to nationals. With that expectation comes more focused work.
“There’s been a big improvement in kind of just the mentality of the team over the years,” said senior captain Cody Christ. “We’re more driven, more focused on a process and getting the results.”
As seniors, both captains have played through the progress of the team under coach Milner, who will be coaching the cross country team for his sixth year this season.
“That first year we made it to nationals, our sophomore year, was Milner’s fourth year as a head coach, and that’s the time where he had all the athletes he recruited,” Speicher said. “I think it speaks volumes to who he can recruit and pick out who represents us.”
Preparation for the season started well before the official training began on Monday.
“The summer was just a lot of mileage growing throughout the summer, building up a base,” Christ said.
According to Speicher, in the summer the team runs 30 to 40 miles per week. Last week they ran 80 to 90.
“As the season goes on, you see your times dropping, so it’s definitely a slow process and you’ve got to be patient with it,” Speicher said.
On Friday the team will open their season at the Dragon Twilight Meet at the Moorview Soccer Complex in Moorhead.
The Women’s Cross Country team, ranked fifth in the NSIC coaches’ poll, will also be starting their season with the Twilight Meet. The Randy Smith Women’s 4K begins at 8:15 p.m. and the Fred Dahnke Men’s 6K begins at 8:45 p.m. This meet marks the beginning of three meets the team will have before advancing to conference, then regionals, then nationals.
While success at Twilight Meet doesn’t imply going to nationals, Speicher says it has a big impact.
“This first meet is kind of figuring out who your top 7 is going be and who is going to be the best runners on your team,” Speicher said.
The men’s cross country team has new faces this season. Nine freshmen joined the team this year.
“As captains, we’re really trying to show them the culture of the team and what we’re here to do and this isn’t something we do for fun,” Christ said. “We’re going to take it as seriously as we can.”
The team will lose three seniors after this season: Christ, Speicher and Brandon Selbig. Christ doesn’t feel his last year is any different than previous ones.
“Expectations are still high, but it’s just kind of that thought in the back of your head that this is your last go around at it so make everything count,” Christ said.
For Speicher, his last year represents his last opportunity to leave a mark on MSUM.
“I want to be on top when I leave and do the best this program has done so I can look back and be like, ‘When I got here freshman year, we weren’t going to nationals. Now when we leave we’re placing, maybe top 15 at nationals,’” Speicher said.