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Daily Blog: Follow the Wilmington University Cross Country Team's Trip To Spokane, Wash.

By: Mark Hannagan

Friday, November 22, 2013 - Spokane, Wash.

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Copyright 2013; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photos by Mark Hannagan



Copyright 2013; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photos by Mark Hannagan



Copyright 2013; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photos by Mark Hannagan

The Wilmington University Cross Country team is competing in the NCAA Division II Championship on Saturday, November 23 for the first time in program history. Follow the team as they left for Spokane, Wash. on Wednesday, and visit the West Coast in preparation for Saturday's meet.

Blog by Mark Hannagan, graduate student from Wilmington, Del.

November 23rd (Race Day)
The boys are getting focused the morning of as they listen to music to pump them up. Captain Mike O’Brian watches Taylor Swift music video, not because he really likes her music but because he likes girls with blonde hair. Jesus Amezquita gets pumped up by listening to Shakira’s, “Hips Don’t Lie.”

Unfortunately today was not Wilmington University’s day. Unlike many of the teams there, today was Wilmington University’s first ever national appearance. We knew the caliber of runners that were running today, but we didn’t know the strategy running that would happen. The race went out well under five minute pace for the first mile. The guys are used to going out this fast, however, the pace never slowed and only got faster from there. The guys were upset with how they finished overall but know that next year they will know what to expect.

Now it’s time for the team to celebrate after a long, successful season, but before we celebrate we reflect on the how the team did this year. This year we had much success, but it still was a very big learning year for all of us. Freshmen Ken Fontal has never raced any distance over 5k and today he raced a 10k. He had many ups and down this year but he made the races that matter count as he finished fifth at CACCs and was named CACC Freshmen of the Year.  Matt Mossman had an excellent race today and also has come through for the team at CACC and East Regional Championship with a late race push. Richie Mitten and Jesus Amezquita have led the team all year as top finishes for Wilmington. Both Mitten and Amezquita will be returning next year and will be putting in the work this spring and summer to make All-American next fall. Graduate student Marshall Hawkins will also be returning next year. Personally, Hawkins had an excellent race today and hopes he will continue to improve next year. Tyler Muse has been a staple to the team’s top five and overall work ethic. He had a shaky race, but he takes away experience from today for next year. Finally, the team will say goodbye to Captain Michael O’Brian. During the past two years O’Brian has helped the team to two CACC team championships, two regional berths, and an NCAA national appearance.

The team hopes to take experience from today and set new and higher goals for next year as it hopes to make its second national appearance in 2014. Next year, Wilmington University has a shot at coming into the season ranked nationally in the Top 25. The team has a new drive and determination in their eyes after seeing what is needed to be one of the best in the country.

2013 Wilmington University Men’s Cross Country
1st CACC
3rd East Regional
30th NCAA DII Championships – 30th best cross country team in the country

Friday, November 22 (Pre-race Day):
Today is all about the team staying off their feet as much as possible since the big race is tomorrow morning. The team woke up early this morning in order to drive to the course for race packet pick up. We got our race bibs and assignments. Tomorrow we will be toeing the line next to Western State, which is one of the favorites to win the whole thing. The guys aren’t intimidated to start next to a team like Western State but are excited they get to race some of the best runners in the nation. Their thought is that we may not win it all but the experience will only benefit us for next year.

Once we got back to the hotel the team took a quick run along the Spokane River. The sights around the river can be described in one word: beautiful. Along the river you can still see the remnants of the old industrial town slowly transforming into a booming urbanized city. The city is still surrounded by pine trees and nature, which makes Spokane different from any city you can find on the east coast.

There isn’t much to do in Spokane. We’ve asked many of the locals what there is to do and often they are as stumped as us. The one thing Spokane does have is a multitude of movie theaters. We took advantage of this and went and saw the new Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Personally I am not a die hard Hunger Games fan so lets say some of us were more excited than others to see the movie.

Tonight will be a early bed time as there is a lot to do on the morning of race day like a short shakeout run, small breakfast, stretching, and driving to the course. Race day conditions are calling for below freezing temperatures and sunny. The boys are getting excited but remaining focused, as tomorrow will be the biggest and fastest race they’ve ever been in.

Thursday, November 21:
Today was a very busy day. The team got a quick breakfast down in the hotel lobby and then got dressed for the chilly 25 degree run. Before heading to the course for the run, we grabbed some essentials at the local Walmart and running stores. These essentials included Gatorade, water, Cliff Bars, fruit, hot chocolate, and Oreos. The one thing that doesn’t change from state to state are the things you find in Walmart.

At the shoe store, some of the team bought some longer spikes to put into their racing shoes as there is a possibility of rain on race day.

We arrived at Plantes Ferry Sports Complex, where Saturday’s race will be held, around noon. The course is a few 2k loops and zigzags around soccer fields. It’s mostly flat with some quick up and down hills, which will make the race fast. After running and previewing the course the guys feel comfortable and confident for the race.

After the run we made our way to a local park, John H. Shields Park, were we spent some time exploring and climbing some rocks. On top of the rock you could see most of Spokane and the Rocky Mountains that surround the city.

Finally, coach Keith “Endzone” Jones decided we should check out Idaho for somewhere to eat for dinner. You may ask the same question as we did, “what is in Idaho?” The answer to that question is…nothing. After an hour of walking around Coeur D'Alene we found a nice little restaurant called Moon Time. After a delicious dinner we drove back to get some sleep since we have an early morning ahead of us filled with pre-race day meetings and routines.

Wednesday, November 20 (Day of Arrival):
After a long day of traveling, the Wilmington University men’s cross country team finally made it to Spokane, Washington, home of the 2013 NCAA DII Cross Country Championship. The team arrived a few days early in order to see and run the course, as they will be covering 10k (6.2miles) within the race.

After we got settled in we did a team run and explored Spokane and Gonzaga University, which is less than a quarter mile away. Following our run we walked to dinner and then went to the Gonzaga vs. Eastern Washington women’s basketball game at the McCarthey Athletic Center (Gonzaga won, 78-58).

The team feels a little jet lagged due to the time change, which is a three hour difference. After a light breakfast we will be running the course tomorrow morning to figure out race strategies for Saturday.