Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the Great American Conference (GAC) championship in Magnolia, Arkansas, on Saturday Oct 21. The men’s team placed first out of seven, and the women’s team placed third out of 12. The successful outcome of the GAC championship has created a positive atmosphere surrounding the cross country teams as they enter the NCAA regional championship.
“It has not changed our strategy but it gives us confidence as a team,” senior Lucas Goodspeed said. “Everyone is in great spirits and that is sure to help us in the regional race.”
Goodspeed is one of the team’s leaders, placing third at the conference championship, claiming the title of Harding’s top finisher in the GAC for the third time in his career and receiving his third All-GAC honor, but success comes with added stress to stay successful.
“It adds some pressure, because you’re setting the tone for the rest of the guys, but you just have to focus on yourself and the race you’re running,” Goodspeed said. “If everyone takes care of their job then we will be in good shape as a team.” The men’s team ended its three year run as the conference runner up. This conference win gives Harding a total of 30 GAC championships in program history. The women were also victorious in their race the same day. With their success also comes pressure for the NCAA regional championship.
“This weekend has showed us what we can do and how we need runners to step out of their comfort zones,” senior Melita Sutherland said. “Since regionals is a six kilometer and we normally run five kilometer races, we need to mentally prepare for a tougher course and tougher competition.”
The NCAA regional championship is Saturday Nov 4 in Kearney, Nebraska. Both teams are preparing seriously but also strategically.
“These next two weeks are crucial for regionals,” Sutherland said. “This week we are building up some mileage and doing some tough workouts, and next week we will taper, which means not running as far and giving our muscles a chance to recover.”
The men’s and women’s cross country teams have had great seasons and have both consistently increases in skill and ability as the season has gone on.
“As a team we have been getting healthier each week, and the guys are getting more confident in the way they race and train,” Goodspeed said. “We trust our ability and believe that we can handle whatever our opponents throw at us when the race comes.”