Emma Esteb – Staff Writer
The Gustavus men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to West Salem, WI for the UW-La Crosse Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational last Saturday. The Gustie women had a phenomenal day, finishing eighth out of 30 in the 6K. The Gustie men put up a fight as they finished 14th out of 28 in the 8K. The women set themselves up for a great seed placement as they prepare for the MIAC Conference meet.
Junior Evelyn Villalobos led the Gustie women yet again, finishing ninth with a time of 22:27.27, setting herself up for a great showing at Conference. Sophomore Sydney Hagen was the next women’s finisher with a time of 23:56.33.
“The women’s team had a very good showing this weekend. We came in really well prepared with all of our workouts and overall we just performed really well and finally got a chance to show off all of our hard work,” Hagen said. Senior Taina Koivisto broke a personal best time this weekend, finishing in 24:24.95. “Half of us got a lifetime personal record, our fastest time, so that was really awesome,” Koivisto said.
Leading the men was Senior Jake Wielgos as he finished with a time of 26:23.63. Sophomore Tyler Smith and Junior Logan McCullough finished next for the Gusties with respective times of 26:41.45 and 26:42.43. Rounding out the Gustie men was Senior Henry Hinchcliffe, finishing with a time of 26:50.91. “I think I did a really good job of getting out and getting into a position I wanted to be in at the start of the race. I also think I did a good job of just trying to work with teammates during the race and push them to do the best that they could throughout the time that we were racing,” Hinchcliffe said.
This meet was a lot of the team’s first overnight experience since the pandemic. “The meet that we had this weekend was our overnight and that was a lot of the girls’ first time staying over with the team. Those are always really fun and everything this year just feels so much better to be back to normal,” Koivisto said. These overnight experiences always create amazing memories and are the perfect way to bond as a team. “This past weekend was my first experience as a junior and I had so much fun. I think it was a great way to get to know the team better and I think we all got a lot stronger,” Junior Marcus Hansen said.
The women’s team has been preparing for the Conference meet and this past weekend was an extremely exciting bound forward for them. “Kind of at the beginning of the season we had struggled with putting younger students in more leadership roles and now I think we have all stepped up to those roles and really filled our parts in that sense. So that has been really cool to see that we were able to finally show off our hard work there this past weekend,” Hagen said. The Gustie men have a lot more to give at Conference and have been mentally and physically preparing for the postseason. “I think we were a little more disappointed with how we did, I think we would have wanted to be a little higher in terms of placing. But we went into this meet trying to take a shot to do something great, didn’t necessarily pan out, but we have been working really hard all season to put ourselves in a great position and I think we are all ready to do some tremendous and really exciting things in the next few weeks leading up to the postseason,” Hinchcliffe said.
The Gusties are off until Oct. 29, when they will travel to St. Paul to compete in the MIAC Championships. With these weeks to prepare, both the men’s and women’s teams have started to taper in order to have everyone feeling their best. “We are starting to taper now and with that we are all just feeling better, feeling faster, and we are doing workouts where we are focusing on our speed,” Koivisto said. The postseason is the time where the athletes are able to hone in on increasing speed and staying healthy. By having less demanding workouts, the men and women are keeping their bodies and minds fresh for the big meet of the season.
The team is taking a relaxed and confident approach for the next few weeks. “We are starting our sharpening, so we are doing a lot more workouts that are speed based and we are cutting our mileage down. We are also thinking about hosting a mental and physical preparation get together this week to get into a more championship mindset for the Conference and end of season meets. We are just going to work on maintaining the team culture and attitude that we have had so far,” Hinchcliffe said. Both teams are excited, hopeful, and ready to take on the next few weeks and show all of their hard work and preparation.