When the Monmouth College cross country teams race at this weekend’s Midwest Conference Championships in De Pere, Wis., they’ll use a three-pronged approach.
“I’ll judge our success on three things,” reported coach Roger Haynes. “Our main goal is the individual quality of the race. Not necessarily where they place, but how closely did they come to achieving the race model? Our second criteria is where the team places in the conference standings, and lastly, the number of all-conference runners we can produce.”
Only the top 20 individuals will earn all-conference status, and Monmouth could be in good shape. Three men and five women who earned all-league accolades last season return for the 2012 meet.
Seniors Jake Barr, Matt Gatlin and Paul Davies helped the Scots place third last season. Barr enters the weekend with the conference’s fastest 8K time, albeit by less than three seconds over Franklin Canady of Grinnell. Gatlin is ranked fifth, less than 15 seconds off Barr’s pace. Monmouth’s pair have been the Scots’ top two runners the entire season.
“It will be interesting to see how Jake and Matt develop their race plan this week,” said Haynes. “Matt tends to be a strong finisher and Jake generally pushes very hard in the middle of the race. That’s worked well for them the last few weeks.”
Davies currently sits just outside all-conference range in 23rd position.
Nate Jones, Dan Reid and Garrett Daniel comprise the Scots’ second pack, all turning in times in the 28-minute range. Haynes figures his No. 4 and 5 runners will be the key to the team standings.
“I’m expecting good races from Dan and Nate,” said Haynes. “That should determine where we stand as a team. Grinnell has the strongest men’s group, St. Norbert probably has the deepest group and Lawrence has all their all-conference runners returning, so you never know how it will shake out until race day.”
On the women’s side, Tori Beaty, Rachel Bowden, Brittney Frazier, Marlee Lane and Alyssa Edwards ran all-conference times a year ago to push the Scots to a runner-up finish. This season Beaty, Bowden and Frazier have turned in top 10 times. Beaty heads into the championships with the league’s third fastest time while Bowden is ranked sixth and Frazier eighth.
“The women are similar to the men in that the top three all have different race styles,” reported Haynes. “Rachel tries to push pretty hard from the front, Tori goes hard in the middle and Brittney is a strong finisher. They’ve come very close to our training model, so I expect we could see some season bests this weekend and at the regional meet in a couple of weeks. They’ve put a great deal of work into their senior season and they deserve to race well.”
Page 2 of 2 - Lane and Edwards form the bookends of the Scots’ second pack. Kyra Kimber and freshman Thea Bloom join Lane and Edwards with 24-minute times, separated by just 20 seconds. Katie White is just outside the group.
“They’re getting more fit and that’s what you want at this time of the year,” claimed Haynes. “Marlee is training and racing better than what she was in the middle part of the season. Alyssa and Kyra look to be strong in the four and five spots. I think those three will set us up well at those positions. Grinnell and St. Norbert look to have the strongest groups, so it will be a challenge.”
The Scots’ track speed could be helped along by the relatively flat championship course located at a city park just outside Green Bay, Wis. Grass and hard-packed dirt trails figures to make it a fast course, which is something the Scots are looking forward to.
“It’s got some rolling hills, but nothing I would consider a big hill,” said Haynes. “Our team should like the course. We’re kind of an oddity in cross country. Many teams have runners who prefer the hills, but we don’t.”
The one thing Haynes’ group does prefer is beating the competition, and this weekend they’ll see how their three-pronged approach handles the conference competition and the Wisconsin course.