Men’s XC sprints to first ODAC title in eight years

With the ODAC title out of the way, Men’s Cross Country eyes Regionals

Caroline Blackmon

For the first time in eight years, the Washington and Lee University’s Men’s Cross Country Team won the ODAC championship.The team had high expectations and goals from the beginning of the year about what it could accomplish, according to Head Coach Brandon Spalding.

“Even though a couple things didn’t go our way [at the ODAC Championship Meet], it was a relief to win,” Spalding said. “None of these guys have ever tasted that success, so that was very exciting.”

While the men’s team was warming up, they heard that the women’s cross country team had won their ODAC Championship meet. The success of the women’s team rose their spirits and got them in the right mindset, said Ian McDonald, ’17.

“Seeing how well our women’s team did pumped us up to really go out there and compete,” McDonald said.

According to the team, there were a few minutes after everybody had finished when they thought they had lost.

“We were pretty disappointed and it was pretty crushing at first,” Captain Jacob Strauss, ’16, said.

MacKenzye Leroy, ’18, was W&L’s fifth runner to finish and said he thought it was going to be a really bad day after he crossed the finish line.

“I was supposed to be a little bit further up, and for about 15 minutes [after I finished] I thought we had lost,” Leroy said. “It wasn’t exactly what we planned, but it didn’t matter how much we won by, just that we had won as a team.”

McDonald, who came in second place overall and earned First Team All-ODAC honors, said the win helped the team confirm that what they have been doing all season was actually paying off.

The team won with 48 points, while host Bridgewater came in second with 50 points.

According to Spalding, the next two weeks until the South/Southeast Regional Championship Meet is all about decompression from that race and continuing to hone the team’s skills.

“We’ve had a really good season, from our number one runner to our number five runner, but nobody has had a good day on the same day,” Spalding said. “So, the joke with the team is that at Regionals, if everyone has a good day, we’ll have a shot to qualify for Nationals.”

As senior captains, Strauss and Levi Warring will try to keep the team disciplined and motivated until Regionals.

“One of the biggest things is going in [to Regionals] with the thought that we’re going to run our best and our hardest,” Warring said. “We have to believe in the training we’ve put up so far and go out there and race.”

With two more weeks of practice until Regionals, the team looks to improve on an already stellar season.

“We have to continue sharpening our speed and making the right decisions over the next ten days so we’re ready when the gun goes off,” Strauss said.

Both Strauss and Warring have left their mark on the team as captains. Phillip Harmon, ’17, said he thinks they’re true role models on and off the course.

“I can say that they are good friends to everyone on the team,” Harmon said. “Everyone looks up to [Strauss and Warring] for their hard work, and also in the way they carry themselves outside of practice.”

According to Spalding, Emory University, the defending regional champion, is the team to beat again this year.

“They will probably take the number one spot, but then there is a mix of about four or five teams for that second spot,” Spalding said. “We feel confident that we have the tools to be at least second place.”

The final goal of the season for the men’s team is to qualify for the National meet, which is something they feel is very possible. According to Harmon, the elation the team is feeling from winning ODACs will carry them into Regionals.

“It would take a lot to get us down at this point, so it’s not a matter of keeping momentum going because everyone is so excited,” Harmon said. “We haven’t done this in any of our times at W&L and we’re just going to keep running.”

The Men’s Cross Country team next competes at the Regional Meet on Nov. 14 at Shenandoah College, and if either the team or individuals qualify, at the National Meet on Nov. 21 at Wisconsin-Oshkosh.