In Cross Country, there are no plays to practice. You simply go out and train to run your best at a meet. Even a veteran coach like Hamline's Paul Schmaedeke admits that preseason previews are often just guessing games. Coaches don't really know much about their teams until they see them in action.
For Schamedeke and the Pipers, that first action is Saturday, September 8. The women's and men's teams take to the course in Decorah, Iowa to compete in the 41st annual Luther College All-American meet.
The women take to the field at 11:20 a.m. The men's race is scheduled for a 11:50 a.m. start.
The youthful women's team has only one active senior on it -- Hilary Murphy. (The other senior, Claire Walling, is sidelined with an injury). But there is a strong junior class, led by Maria Theisen, was 30th in last year's MIAC Championships. Emily Smith was 47th as a freshman in last year's MIAC race and headlines the four-member sophomore contingent.
The Piper men have won the last conference titles in a row -- the best strong of any MIAC school since the 1990s. Although there are six seniors on the team, HU will have a different look this year as the second, third and fourth place finishers in last year's meet are gone to graduation. That leaves senior co-captain Colin Rogers (16th in the MIAC meet last year) as the top returnee. But two other seniors -- Nate Dobbins and Brendan Ruter -- have been waiting in the wings for their turn at leading the pack. The men's team was rated 7th among Central region teams in the annual USTFCCA preseason poll.
The first chance to do that will in this meet. "There's always a learning curve," Schmaedeke said. "You have to start somewhere. The goal for both teams is get better each week and peak on the last Saturday in October (at the MIAC meet). We have a lot of very good athletes on both teams. And they will only improve by going out and competing against good competition. The first meet is always a bit of an unknown. But it should give us a good idea of where we are right now ... and what we will have to do in the future."
You can click here to get the results of the races.