Mens XC_1

Redshirt junior Brian Llamas, left, and senior Martin Coolidge run in the men's competition at the Bulldog 4K Classic in Des Moines on Aug. 29.

For the last two years, runners on the ISU men's cross-country team have watched their dreams of qualifying for NCAA nationals pass them by.

This year, once again, the goal is a trip to the national meet. So the team is shifting its focus and setting the pace in practice.

Jeremy Sudbury, assistant coach, has a simple plan on how to accomplish a return trip. The coaches are letting practice determine who competes in each meet and are taking the season day-by-day.

“This year, we’ve got to get that monkey off our back and just get the job done,” Sudbury said.

Redshirt senior Brian Llamas is stepping into his new leadership role with enthusiasm and helping the team transition to the new goals.

“Cross-country is one of the few sports where everybody matters, and it’s a team sport," Llamas said. "It’s not just an individual goal, it’s a team goal.”

Getting the job done is on all of the runners' minds, as all eyes are looking toward November and nationals. But between then and now, the team has many miles to run.

The Cyclones debut their season Friday night in Iowa City at the Hawkeye Early Bird Invitational.

“Being so early in September, we don’t necessarily want to put all our poker chips in and show all of our cards," Sudbury said. "We really want to take a low-key approach this season.”

The Cyclones will join University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Illinois State University at 3:45 p.m. Friday on the Bill and Jim Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City.

One step at a time.

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