By Bryson Williams
LOGOS STAFF WRITER
Elite runners compete in a race where speed and strength are only half the battle. Running long distances can exceed the body’s limits which require immense will power and endurance.
Cross country coach Derek Riedel leads this elite force as he must train his runners with not only endurance, but mental maturity for his racers to carry out their pace to the finish line.
“The hardest part of coaching CC is convincing people to push harder and test their limits,” Riedel said. “Too many of our kids grow up not being pushed. In ‘cross,’ the athlete isn’t going to get better if they aren’t pushing themselves daily and increasing their mileage.”
Cross country practice is held early in the mornings where they continue to struggle with sleeping hours and running at intense paces.
“We do one primary run every morning that consists of mileage (approximately 10 miles a day) with some days consisting of anaerobic workouts (speed) like hill repeats, track work or faster running in parks,” Riedel said. “We also lift weights three times per week to increase muscular strength, flexibility, and joint stability. Many of them also do a second easy run three times per week for recovery and mileage boosting.”
Running at such an immense pace for many miles at a time can push the body past its limit, to a point where only the runner can decide whether to finish the race strong and consistently or not, he noted.
“They have to visualize themselves being good and conquering the discomfort. Their body can push through much more pain than they think is possible if their mind is in the right place,” Riedel said.
Cross country is very different from other sports in that the mental aspect must overcome the physical pain the body must endure.
“The hardest aspect of CC is the mental aspect. Our sport requires punishing the body on a nearly daily basis. Other sports do our ‘sport’ or ‘conditioning’ only a small part of the time and often uses it as punishment.”
The first race starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, at the Baylor Twilight. Riedel said he is confident about the season and hopes the training pays off.
“I expect the women to finish top three in the conference and I expect the men to finish in the top four in the conference. We have a very strong conference so top-five finishes usually set us up well at the regional level.”
Those expected to make contributions include Amanda Bishop, Howard Gill and twins Marcos Mora and Mario Mora.
“The Midwestern State women are strong as always,” Riedel said. “The Eastern New Mexico men look real strong in addition to traditional men’s power Abilene Christian University. ACU will always surprise when people think they are (vulnerable) and ENMU has taken advantage of being one of only a few collegiate CC programs in the state of (New Mexico) and being a very cheap school. They have built up large numbers which always helps the overall quality of the team.”
But the coach is looking overall to challenge opponents.
“We treat everyone equally and encourage the best of our athletes. Our team is very close-knit, which I believe helps our performance,” Riedel said.