CC, track runners get no breaks at U

by Ryan Schuster

It’s 7:30 a.m., and while most college students are still in bed sleeping, the men’s cross country team is outside running through the deserted streets.
For these athletes, running is truly a full-time job.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams typically either run or lift weights for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon during the week. On weekends they usually compete in a meet on Saturday and go on a long distance run for several hours on Sunday.
All of the cross country runners at Minnesota also compete in track and field in the spring. Add classes and a part-time job for some, and it’s easy to get overextended.
“Some days you just don’t want to go into work,” said Allen Broderius, a member of the men’s team who also works eight hours a week at a research lab on campus. “It’s tough to schedule things and it makes everything more difficult.”
Apart from scheduling difficulties, both sports can take a toll on athletes physically as well.
“It’s a big commitment,” said former men’s cross country coach Roy Griak, who ran both sports himself in college. “You are going all year long and 365 days out of a year. It’s not something you can do without going year-round.”
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams end their season Nov. 25 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. After receiving a short hiatus over winter break, the athletes will start their indoor track and field schedule during the first two weeks of January.
“There’s no real off season,” Broderius said. “Track guys can take June, July, August and kick back. You can’t relax when you are doing both.”
Because both sports are extremely physically demanding, they can become tough on the body after a long time.
“It does get very tiring after a while,” Kari Thompson, a member of the women’s cross country team said. “Long distance running is hard on the body.”
In addition to the physical aspect, there is also a psychological aspect that the student-athletes have to juggle.
“It takes a lot of dedication,” Steve Plasencia, the men’s cross country coach said. “The complete season for track and field and cross country is virtually every day in school, and in the summer we ask them to get in mileage for fall. We ask a lot from them.”
There are, however, some athletic advantages that come with competing in two sports and training over the summer. Runners from both teams feel that they are better prepared physically and mentally for the two seasons than are athletes who only compete in one sport.
“(Cross country) is a necessary evil,” Rick Obleman said. “It’s good for track and it carries you through the season.”
Academically, the added pressure of time management seems to push the runners to do better, instead of hurting their grades.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are known for doing well in the classroom as well as on the course. Each team boasts several Academic All-Big Ten selections.
Apart from school there is a financial burden that most cross country and track athletes face, too.
“It’s a big sacrifice,” said Gary Wilson, the women’s cross country coach. “A lot of kids come here and walk on and then earn a scholarship. We have some of the best students in school and also good athletes. Everybody gets an opportunity to earn money.”
That may be true, but the amount of money that the runners typically receive is minimal compared to the full scholarships that athletes in higher revenue sports get. Both the men’s and women’s programs split up their scholarship money over the entire track and cross country teams.
Although competing in two sports is difficult, it’s not all blood, sweat and tears.
“They have fun, too, and there are some positive aspects to doing both,” Plasencia said. “If they did not enjoy running, they would not be doing it.”
Obleman, a senior on the men’s cross country team who also works part time at an athletic apparel store, summed up the experience best, “It’s a challenge and that’s how a lot of guys approach it,” he said.