The Tommie men's cross country team finished fifth of 11 squads at the MIAC Championships on Saturday, and coach Pete Wareham saw many good things in what at times has been a frustrating season.
“I read a great quote from Nick Symmonds who is the top US 800M runner and one of the best in the world.," Wareham said. "He said ‘You spend all your time dreaming of a medal. You don’t dream of fifth place,' and this is sort of how we feel as a team. We focused on being a medal contending team for the MIAC this year. We had some guys step it up and make great contributions to the team this year so far but we also had some tough luck in terms of injuries to several of our veteran core runners.”
Wareham had particular priase for four-time All-MIAC honoree Ben Sathre; junior Stu Lombardo, who improved 67 spots and dropped 1:48 from his 2010 place and time; and Ben Rascher, who placed 47th in 27:15 and was the eighth freshman finisher in the men's race.
“Ben Sathre has had one of the very top careers of any MIAC cross country runner, so it was great to see him win his first individual title.," Wareham said. "His performance shows everyone the high level of talent he has as a distance runner. Even though he has had some very successful performances in the past he has really taken things further and developed in so many ways this year as a runner.
“Stu Lombardo is another one of our guys who has made a leap to the next level. He hadn’t been a top-five runner in our program in the past but with his hard work, great focus and leadership he has proven to be a solid MIAC cross country runner. I think he improved more than 60 places from the year before.
PHOTOS: Top, Ben Sathre; below, Stu Lombardo
“I was also happy with the race that Ben Rascher had as a freshman. He will be a very good runner in college and is very poised as a freshman. He has the right qualities that allow him to be a great teammate who is a reliable leader. As he gets more training and experience he will continue to improve upon his very good start.”
Wareham saw other positives. “Over the course of the year we had some people do some very good things," Wareham said. "Scott Fusco and Zach Brintz are two guys who improved quite a bit compared to the freshman year last fall. They increased their training and over the season were valuable contributors to the varsity this year, and I think they will now be able to add on to the success they experienced this year.
“I also like our freshman class. We have a combination of talent and attitude that is really a good mix. At the MIAC meet Dan Kremer worked his way into the top 7 later in the race and that is the kind of championship approach we like to have. Paul Frekot had his best race of the season at the MIAC and Robby Williams has displayed the ability to perform consistently well in his races.
“Our sport is one where the athletes are constantly trying to maximize their potential by building upon the hard work from each day of practice. Unfortunately this puts you kind of on the bubble with respect to determining how much you can handle and at times the hard work might result in less than desired injuries. You can’t fault the attitude that the guys have in terms of working hard to improve. Even the very best runners in the world walk this fine line and at times end up on the wrong side.”
Injuries Bug Bites
Injuries took their toll on UST in 2011.
“I’m certain other teams had some injuries this year as well," Wareham said. "With us it just happened to several of our experienced and core varsity runners. Tyler Iverson has had a very good year and has been a top MIAC runner for several years but unfortunately has an issue in his lower leg that has prevented him from important training these past weeks. He was really fighting the injury during the MIAC race and I am really proud for the way he tried to do all he could inspite of the effects of his injury. We also lost one of our top 5 from last year in Brian Farley. Brian finished very well at the MIAC track championship last spring and we were counting on him being able to build upon that success. Unfortunately he has really been forced out of running for basically this whole season due to his knee. “
“We were really excited about the progress that Keaton Wendroth had made this summer and into the first weeks of the season. He was coming into his own in his daily training and also the first couple of races. Out of the blue he suffered what was thought to be an achilles tendon rupture at a late September practice and he has been forced into a walking boot for the past four weeks. It will be very helpful to have Keaton back down the road as he has a great attitude and is very talented.”
“Injuries happen all of the time in our sport, and I know other runners and other teams have had similar issues. Having one injury to a key performer is tough but having it happen to three of your top six runners really makes you wonder what could have been. The only thing you can do is try to get healthy, continue to have a positive attitude, and stay focused for the next opportunity."
Wareham's 2010 team had a stronger performance at regions than it did at conference, and he's lookign for that to happen again this season.
“As we approach the region meet we feel as a team we can improve upon our MIAC Championship performance," Wareham said. "We will need some guys to step it up and rise to the occasion but we have guys who over the years have shown the attitude and ability to do just that. I am excited to see what our guys will do and am really looking forward to the region meet.”