By Rachel Kearney
After this fall, the men’s cross-country knows anything can happen.
The team has been plagued by injuries and has seen unexpected performances, both good and bad.
And as the NAIA No. 23-ranked team goes into the national meet this Saturday in Vancouver, Wash., they will keep that truth in mind.
“[Because of their ranking] no one’s really expecting the team to do anything [at nationals],” said senior captain Justin Jones. “But I think finishing in the top 15 is realistic.”
The team qualified for the meet after taking second at the CCAC conference meet on Nov. 5, led by junior Kasey Ferrigan, who finished fourth.
He was followed by freshman Dylan Creger, who placed ninth in the race.
Olivet’s four-time CCAC runner of the week this year, sophomore Mitchell Dale, unexpectedly placed 10th after leading the team in every other meet.
While the team did not have the outcome they expected, Jones and coach Mike McDowell said it was a good learning experience for some of the runners, including Dale.
The rest of the season was similar to conference as some members of the team struggled to perform to their potential due to unforeseen circumstances.
One of those circumstances involved Jones, who had the most prominent injury on the team this year.
The two-time all-conference runner tore a ligament in his foot at the end of the team’s preseason camp and was unable to run this season.
But as a captain, he has been able to coach his teammates and will travel with them to Vancouver this week.
“I’m just keeping everyone positive and upbeat,” he said.
McDowell said he has a similar role with the team this week.
“I’m just letting them know they’re better [than their showing at conference],” he said. “They need to believe in themselves and believe in their training.”
Jones also said the team’s training was designed for the runners to peak at the national meet.
He added the meet is “by far” the most important race of the year for his teammates.
“They need to take full advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given,” Jones said.
The men’s race at the national meet is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. (PST) on Saturday, Nov. 19, followed by the women’s race at 11:45 a.m.