Cross Country volunteers and competes in prestigious meets

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The Cross Country team volunteering at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Convent in Bloomington, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of UDallas Athletics

A few weeks ago the University of Dallas cross country team headed up north to the land of ten thousand lakes to compete in the Roy Griak Invitational, one of the more prestigious meets in the nation, which was hosted by the University of Minnesota. 

According to Coach Nick Schneigert, the team always tries to do homecoming meets each season for the student athletes where the team competes in a student athlete’s home state. This meet was a homecoming for senior star athlete, Anna Wilgenbusch, who hails from Minnesota. On the night of arrival, the team was served  a pasta dinner by the Wilgenbusch household, to help up the carbs for the following day’s race.

The next day, Sept. 24, the meet began. There were four separate heats — a fast and slow heat for each gender. The men had their first 8k of the season and the women had their first 6k.The weather was unfortunately rainy during the men’s races, making the competition more difficult. 

More than 30 teams competed in each heat and only a few were in the same NCAA division as UD, Division III.

The course was also quite hilly and complicated, producing slower times for the team. “It is one of the most technical courses in the United States,” said Schneigert in an interview. “You’re not going to get PR’s. It’s more about understanding culture.” 

Wilgenbusch placed in the top 50. Wilgenbusch, in the words of Schneigert is “a finesse runner. She’s very, very talented.”

Schneigert’s runners are enthusiastic about participating in these more prestigious meets. Wilgenbusch said: “It’s been really cool to be at the same meets as some really competitive DI schools. Being immersed in that cross country culture has sort of been what the season’s been about so far, which is really fun.” 

Fellow senior Isabella Childs concurred, saying: “It’s one of the bigger meets we’ve gone to in the last ten years. Our coach is exposing us to more intense competition and that helps us grow.”

The women did well, but it was a tougher day for the men. The men’s team is quite young, with no seniors at the helm, leaving promising potential for the coming years. 

For Schneigert and the team, the meet was a fantastic opportunity to see strong cross country culture. “In my opinion, it was a successful day,” said Schneigert. It’s really about building experience and getting to answer some questions.”

The stay in Minnesota also provided a great opportunity for the team to assist in community service. Schnigert’s policy is to do community service at least once per season, as he said, “I think it’s important to give back to the community.” 

Immediately following the Griak meet, the team went to the convent of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is part of the Peruvian order Pro Ecclesia Sancta. The team helped clean woods behind the convent and performed other household chores for several hours. 

The next week, the team headed to Arkansas to compete in the Chili Pepper Festival. Schneigert said: “In my opinion, it’s the most prestigious cross country meet in the South. I really wanted my athletes to see what real cross country culture is like.” 

The team found more success on the flatter and faster course, as many seasonal PR’s and a few overall PR’s were achieved. Wilgenbusch placed 5th in competing against all Divisions and placed first among Division III teams. 

Schneigert was pleased with the results, saying: “Almost everybody had a seasonal PR. A lot of questions were answered.”

For the second week in a row, Max Lagarde was the USCAA Athlete of the Week and Wilgenbusch was the SCAC Athlete of the Week.

The team has no shortage of intelligent student athletes. In fact, the team was voted NCAA Division III All-Academic last year. Schneigert is clearly successful in working with academically-oriented athletes and the team takes pride in both their athletic and academic achievements. 

The team as a whole is undecided on the Regional Championships. However, Wilgenbusch will definitely attend. She is a 2019 NCAA Division III All American, the only one from the South-West region and the first in the history of the program.

The season is all about getting prepared for Conference Championships, which is why Schneigert wants his team to compete in the more prestigious meets so that they can “get that experience of competing against the big dogs.” 

The Conference Championships take place on Oct. 31 at Trinity University in San Antonio. Schneigert feels that the team will “be in the middle of the pack. There’s a strong possibility we’ll be somewhere between 3rd and 5th place.”

The team is experiencing good culture and welcome challenges, and the immersion in competitive culture is producing stronger athletes.

Correction 8:26 p.m., Nov. 8: This article has been corrected with the proper spelling of Coach Nick Schneigert’s name.

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