Owls excels at NAIA Cross Country National Championships
By Michael Burton, editor-in-chief
Oregon Tech’s cross country team has made leaps and bounds in their performance. During the previous term, three of Oregon Tech’s runners made All American (first thirty runners out of six hundred) at Nationals on November 18, 2017. Cindy Reed took sixth place, setting a school record, Mark French took eighth, and Susie Garza took sixteenth.
Fall term was a year for breaking records; the strong performance at Nationals's has left both the men’s and women’s teams ranked 10th in their genders. Together, both teams rank 5th nationally , providing the best combined team score in school history. The women's team also, for the first time in school history, won the Cascade Conference Championships on November 4, 2017.
“Our team has been the best it has ever been,” says women’s team captain Danielle De Castro, a junior in Mechanical Engineering. This is not an empty boast; De Castro ran the numbers and found that her team had surpassed all prior records, opening up new recruiting opportunities and interest for prospective student runners.
“We have such great teammates, so it makes our job really easy,” says Paul Wyatt, the men’s team captain and junior in Software Engineering. He and De Castro’s role as team captains were to act as a go-between for the rest of the runners and their coaches. While cross country may not be immediately considered a “team sport” in the same sense as football or basketball, both captains were quick to emphasize the importance of teamwork.
“This is probably one of the most team-oriented sports,” says Wyatt.
Cindy Reed concurs, “Acting as a team requires that we work with each other as a team. In training, for example, we run every day together, often twice. We have track workouts, trail workouts, progressive runs, recovery runs through town, warm up runs, cool down runs, long runs on weekends, weightlifting, and core ALL with the team.”
Fellow All-American Mark French, a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering, also shed some light on just what working as a team in cross country means.
“Coming back to Klamath Falls (during the school year) makes running so much easier,” confessed French. According to him, it is much easier to push himself while surrounded by his teammates.
In addition to the team effort put forward – something both the captains and French noted were years in the making – Oregon Tech’s team captains also singled out Coach Jack Kegg (or “Coach K.”) as an enormous contributor to their success this year.
Danielle De Castro pointed to Coach Kegg’s vision and organization as being invaluable. In addition to encouraging the team to make goals for themselves and to be enthusiastic about their running, he times the intensity and structure of the workouts so that his runners peak at the right time, such as the Cascade Championships which Oregon Tech won.
“(His organization) allows me to put a lot of trust in him,” says De Castro.
Thanks to the team’s successes, Oregon Tech has begun attracting interest and recognition, both from fellow competing schools, and prospective students who are considering cross country and track. De Castro and Wyatt are deeply excited about bringing in new blood, as well as potentially raising awareness of their team’s accomplishments.
Multiple cross country runners confessed they thought the general lack of awareness over the team’s continual progress and improvements over the past few years is “crazy.” De Castro and Wyatt theorized that this ignorance mainly stemmed from the lack of home meets here at Oregon Tech. Neither cross country nor track has seen an Oregon Tech home meet in several years.
Nevertheless, the runners forge on, laying the groundwork for the freshmen who will follow, literally, in their tracks and, hopefully, in their example.