The "forgotten child" of fall sports in making a statement. Not one to be forgotten any time soon.
According to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in the NCAA Division 1 Men's Cross Country Preseason rankings, the Cyclone men come in at 12th, their highest preseason ranking in school history.
Despite the preseason polls, the Cyclone men's cross country team is staying focused on their own feet.
This year will prove to be a pivotal one for the men's cross country program, as the 2016 season ended with a trip to the NCAA Championships in Terra Haute, Ind. The 2017 team is out to build on 2016, and show that last year's trip to Nationals was no fluke.
"We want to let our running and feet do the talking," assistant coach Jeremy Sudbury told the Daily in an interview on Aug. 22. "We tell our guys don't even look at [the rankings]. At the end of the day, none of that really matters. It's all about just going out and competing and running really well."
Sudbury emphasized the focus on consistency this season, continuing to build from last year, and being in a position to put it all together later in the season when it really counts.
Since the outcome of the post season is less dependent on regular season performance compared to other sports, cross country offers coaches an opportunity to move guys around frequently. Sudbury pointed out that the early meets give them a chance to be flexible, and find pieces that will fit together down the road.
For the 2017 season, the Iowa State distance men will be facing the same meet lineup as last season, which may certainly prove beneficial, as consistency is a key focus in the program this year. However, along with that comes the push for growth and improvement.
"It's very clear that we want to be better than we were last year," Sudbury said. "Our schedule is the same, so it's ultimately going to be hopefully at a different level and a better level."
On off-season summer training, Sudbury explained that since many of the guys are three sport athletes, (cross country, indoor track and outdoor track) summer is really a chance to let the guys train on their own off campus and "recharge the batteries."
The real focus for the distance squad is the three meets that compose the end of regular season and postseason; the Big 12 Conference meet, NCAA Regionals and the National Championship meet.
"This is a pivotal season for Iowa State Cross Country in that we kinda get a sense that last year wasn't a fluke," Sudbury said. "And that we can get to be one of those programs that is a force to be reckoned with on the national scene."