The Iowa State men’s cross-country team finished second overall in the annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday.
There was a mere five seconds between the Cyclone runners at the finish line, which showed the team's maturity during the middle of the season.
Coach Jeremy Sudbury sure thought so.
“Our guys showed a lot of maturity in the way they raced,” Sudbury said. “They acted like they’d been in that situation before, when it was only the first race for some of them.”
The Cyclones ran solid times despite having to race on a less-than-ideal course. The team arrived in Minnesota on Friday and found that the course was quite soggy, but it improved throughout the day.
It rained leading up to the race on Saturday, making the ground more saturated. Five other races took place before the Cyclones got to compete, meaning the course was more torn up and muddy from other runners, Sudbury said.
“There were a couple spots that our runners said they had to be more careful of to avoid falling,” Sudbury said. “Near the end of the race it got hillier and muddier, but overall we were ready.”
To prepare for the tougher course conditions the runners changed into their longer spikes, which gave them the best chance at competing.
Another reason why the Cyclones’ finish was impressive was due to the level of competition they faced. Eight of the teams they competed against were ranked in the top 30 nationally, with an additional three receiving votes.
Cyclone men's XC comes up big at Griak finishing 2nd as a team beating 7 teams ranked in the Top 25. Team effort, 17, 18, 19, 20, 23. Wow!— Jamie Pollard (@IASTATEAD) September 24, 2016
“Finishing as well as we did considering the competition should give our guys confidence,” Sudbury said. “It’s a stepping stone as we look forward to the rest of the season.”
Redshirt freshman Thomas Pollard and senior-transfer Kevyn Hoyos were instructed to lead the team and pick up any guys who strayed from the pack. A surprising third man helped lead the way as well.
“Third-year Josef Andrews was a surprising vocal leader out on the course,” Sudbury said. “He helped corral our guys and down the stretch helped keep them calm and motivated.”
The strategy entering the race was to run as a team, which the staff believes was executed well. Although the runners spread out along the race, the hope was that down the stretch they could use each other as motivation as they forged into a pack again.
The team came back together at about the 6K mark, and the last 2K or so was the most pleasing for Sudbury. Running alongside one another was important and showed the growing maturity of each runner.
Another positive from the second-place finish was showing the runners how hard work pays off.
“This finish validates our process and certifies that what these guys have been doing is worth it in the end,” Sudbury said. “Our overall goal is to get our guys to buy into our coaching method and let them take ownership.”
Despite the strong finish, there are some things the team will look to improve upon. The coaching staff noticed some mistakes that could be corrected during the meet. They also know each individual can do better, so continuing to work on the physical and mental aspects of the sport is on their agenda.
“We have some things our sleeve for the rest of the season,” Sudbury said. "The biggest thing right now is for our guys to stay hungry and motivated to succeed.”