By Leah Boucher, Contributing Writer
The men’s and women’s cross country teams are preparing for the North Atlantic Conference, or NAC, championship meet on Oct. 29 at Johnson State College in Vermont. As the Division III conference championship meet, this race is one of the most important of the season for the UMF teams.
A first year runner on the team, Connor Marland, is feeling optimistic about the upcoming race despite a discouraging last meet. “We had a disappointing 5th place finish at states due to injuries,” said Marland, “but the team is coming back strong and we should place 3rd at NAC’s, if not better.”
The team has been plagued with injuries and illnesses throughout this season, but Coach Dan Campbell, a graduate of UMF, believes that if the men’s team runs strong, they could place first or second at this meet. “For this season, the NAC Championship has been the meet I want both teams to excel in,” said Campbell. “Maybe later down the road, such as in a few seasons, the teams can focus on dominating states or even the New England’s meet, but for right now, the NAC meet is what we have been training for.”
The course at Johnson State is unlike any course the teams have ran this season, and Campbell has tried his best to prepare his team for the uphill battle that lies ahead. “In my three plus decades of coaching, I have never seen a course that is so hilly and has such a steep incline,” said Campbell. “This meet is not about the speed, it’s about each runner’s ability to channel strength and endurance.”
Second year runner Rachael Chavarie is grateful Campbell has pushed them in practice to build up this endurance. “Coach holds several practices at Titcomb Mountain, where we actually have to run up the face of the mountain,” said Chavarie. The teams have also been focusing on tapering off in practices, which means they lower their weekly mileage in order to save their energy for the big meet and the hills. The women’s team is expected to come in second, but with injuries among top runners, Campbell is hoping for a top three finish.
Another goal the team has been working on all season, and especially for this championship race, is to overcome individual roadblocks that have hindered runners from reaching their maximum potential so far, such as the injuries and illnesses that have weakened the team. However, Campbell is proud of each runner’s ability to eventually climb over these challenges. Every team member has struggled, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, but they have each overcome their battles by resting or participating in individual workouts. “This persistence makes a strong team for bonding and chemistry, which has been one of my main goals for this season,” said Campbell.
Chavarie praised Campbell for his caring yet challenging outlook on each of the runners. “Coach pulls each of his runners aside during the season to ask what our individual goals are and to make sure we are trying our best to meet them,” said Chavarie. “He cares about our health, but he also wants us to push ourselves past what we think we can run during each meet.”
After the NAC meet, the men’s and women’s teams will attend the regional New England meet on Nov. 12 at Westfield State University in Massachusetts.