Eric Parks, Managing Editor
The Saint Martin’s cross country teams are set to start another season under the leadership of Head Coach Jim Brewer. While both teams placed last in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Preseason Coach’s Poll, an influx of new talent provides hope for the team and its fans.
Eight of the nine runners on the 2019 Saint Martin’s Women’s Cross Country Team are freshman, while only Alyssa Robinson, a sophomore, is returning. She was the top runner for the Saints last season. Finishing 79th at the GNAC Championships and 161st at the NCAA regionals. Elaina Hansen, a freshman from Rainier High School, has caught the attention of her teammates and coaches. Throughout practice so far this season, she has emerged as a young leader with a strong work ethic, and was voted nearly unanimously as team captain. During an interview with Head Coach Jim Brewer, he stated that,
“On the lady’s side, it’s really pretty cool because we have a group of like four or five ladies that are all within 30 seconds of each other, and so already in practice, just the mentality and the work ethic, it’s just been really encouraging. [They are] very coachable, hungry, and wanting to get better. I’m excited to see what those girls are going to do and really how that could potentially change on a weekly basis, as well.”
While the men have more returning runners than the women, there are many new faces as well.
Juniors Miguel De LaMelena, who finished 72nd at the GNAC Championships in 2018, and Joe Edgecomb, who did not compete in 2018 but finished 86th at the GNAC Championships in 2017, will add a veteran presence. Sophomore Andrew Oslin led the team last year by finishing 56th at the GNAC Championships. The team welcomes six incoming freshmen and two transfer students this season that will add to the eight returning athletes. One of the transfer students is junior Markus Rice, who lead his team to a second place finish in the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) Championships last season and was named NWAC All-American twice during his time at Spokane Falls. Brewer stated that,
“Marcus [Rice], Andrew [Oslin], and [freshman] Nick [Sarysz], those three guys, that’s going to be a fun group where I think they are going to mix it up almost every weekend.” De LaMelena is considering a redshirt season to focus on academics, but this team has a good foundation even without him.
Over the summer, the team has been hard at work training. Coach Brewer gave the athletes a training schedule to be completed. Some trained with their high school teams, while others ran individually on their own time. The team reported to campus a week early for their annual cross country camp, where they trained twice a day and ran at Capital State Forest. Now, they practice eight times a week: twice on Mondays and Wednesdays with a day off on Sunday. Even on their day off, many athletes choose to crosstrain or go for a light run. Coach Brewer is optimistic about the team’s practices, saying, “We’re getting faster, getting stronger, looking good. [We are] getting to see people’s work ethic and their drive. They have some good goals and they really want to improve overall as a team and what we’ve done over the last few years in the conference.”
While many people would not usually consider cross country to be a top spectator sport, it can definitely be an entertaining experience for fans. When asked about the fan experience at a cross country meet, Brewer had much to say.
“It really depends on the course. When I was running in college, it was all over the place. Over the years, collegiate cross country has transitioned to be more like the international scene where they run two kilometer loops, which makes it a little bit more spectator friendly. Not necessarily as much fun for the athlete, per say, but it definitely makes it a lot easier to watch.”
“Our home course here at Saint Martin’s, I’ve tried to design it where it’s a course that’s both fun for the athlete and the spectator. In the men’s course, for example, out of the five miles of the race, there’s maybe a mile that a person has a hard time seeing. For the ladies, it’s roughly a thousand meters. It’s very much a course that you can watch and see, and yet it has the element of surprise for both the athlete and the spectator where there’s parts where they run through the woods and you can’t see the changing of position until they come out of the woods.”
While the athletes are the main focus of any sporting event, Brewer had a suggestion for something else to watch.
“I think the great thing, too, about being a spectator is if you watch the coaches. It’s almost like a separate race is going on amongst the coaches as people are running from the gun going off to where the first mile is and you see a huge charge of people trying to race to the first mile. And then they’re running to whatever next location they can get to, and it very much is almost an undisclosed competition between the coaches [of] who can outrun each other to the next spot.”
The team is looking forward to their first meet on Sept. 14 at Central Washington University, and then host the Ken Garland Classic at Saint Martin’s on Sept. 28.