Some athletes are compelled into the world of sports from a young age. This is what happened to junior theology and business major Andrew Maal, who was shanghaied into cross country as a child.
“It was compulsory, actually,” Maal said. “When my mom began a cross country program at our middle school, she basically told my brother Adam and I that we were running cross country because there was no one else to take us home from school. Over time I learned to love it and even embrace it.”
Alongside cross country, Maal participated in swimming in high school as a member of the Pueblo Swim Club and was awarded Academic All-State.
“Being an athlete in high school allowed me to start balancing academics and athletics, learning how much I can handle, and the general team dynamic of what it means to be on a team,” Maal said. “Also, when you’re in athletics, there’s a certain level of accountability and expectation to show up and keep up every single day.”
Maal has continued his love for cross country at the University of Dallas, where he lettered in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. His fastest times include a time of 19:14 at the 5k UD Invitational and 31:59 at the 8k USCAA Championship. In addition to his extended practice growing up, Maal’s meticulous care for his body has helped him to achieve these times.
“Sleep is [hugely important],” Maal said. “When you’re having these late nights of homework, you have to accept that maybe you didn’t get everything done, but I have a meet tomorrow or in two days, so I’ve got to start sleeping. Mentally, setting a goal for that specific race is key. If you’re not going into it with a specific goal in mind, it’s harder to compete.”
The guidance offered by fifth year men’s and women’s cross country Head Coach Matt Barber is critical in helping athletes like Maal prepare for each meet.
“ ‘Barbs’ always reminds us of our goals and again, taking care of our bodies and academics,” Maal said. “He tells us to stay on our classes and get ahead. He was a student here once, so he understands what life is like at UD in relation to athletics.”
After lettering for the last two years in cross country, Maal commented on what it means to become a team captain.
“I just really want there to be a great team cohesion, and above all leave the team with a sense that I committed,” Maal said. “When I was a freshman I had great captains, and now it’s my chance to be that for the underclassmen again.”
Finally, Maal commented on some of his favorite memories with the team so far.
“My favorite memories are all linked to traveling with the team, [and more] specifically going to Virginia Beach in November,” Maal said. “This was a nice, small vacation before finals and the end of the semester [came] around. We’re traveling together off campus and running on these eastern coast beaches, and also going out there and competing.”