Wayne State’s men’s and women’s cross-country teams will look to extend their season as they participate in the NCAA Midwest Regional on Nov. 17 in Hillsdale.
In the team’s last meet at the GLIAC Championship on Nov. 3 in Grand Rapids, both teams finished fourth. While both teams hoped to finish in the top three, head coach Grant Lofdahl said the team showed improvement from last year.
“During the season I think the expectations went up with the way the guys were performing,” Lofdahl said. “(But) I told the guys after the race at GLIAC’s, we’re not that happy right now, but if someone would have told us after last year’s conference meet that you guys are going to finish fourth at next year’s GLIAC Championships we would have been ecstatic.”
After the meet, freshman men’s cross-country runner Ethan Byrnes earned GLIAC All-Second team honors. Lofdahl said Byrnes has been consistent throughout the season for the team.
“He’s been a pretty good leader for us even though he’s only a freshman (and) we need that with a young team,” Lofdahl said. “We need to have some of those young guys step up, so he’s definitely done that on the course and off the course, so (we’re) looking for continued consistency and good performances from him.”
On the women’s side, Ashley Defrain picked up Freshman of the Year honors. Lofdahl said Defrain has performed well all season.
“We really tried to not put any extra pressure on her being our top runner all season long, and (we) let her have fun and go race and she hasn’t had a letdown all season,” Lofdahl said.
Lofdahl said the team will face its toughest overall setup of the season at NCAA Regionals, but the team has prepared to run like this all season long.
“We’ve done workouts preparing to run 10,000 meters rather than focusing on an 8,000 meter and just trying to add something at the end,” Lofdahl said. “We’ve been training for an 8K all season, so I think the guys will be ready to perform well.”
With below average weather for November expected in Hillsdale this weekend, Lofdahl said the team has practiced outdoors all week, and he’s preached toughness to the team.
“I’ve told them multiple times already that this meet is not going to the fastest team or the most talented team, it’s going to go to the team that can be the toughest for that length of time while you’re out there competing,” Lofdahl said.
Lofdahl said the goal for the men’s side is to improve on last year’s finish, where they finished 25th.
“I told the guys we’ve been underestimated already throughout the year by other teams, and I think we can go out there and beat some senior laden squads and perform really well,” Lofdahl said. “So top ten would be a great finish if not top seven or eight if we have a good day.”
And on the women’s side, Lofdahl said the team’s goal is to try to qualify for the national championship.
“Whether that means finishing third, sixth or wherever that falls, we’re going to hopefully run our best race of the season and get to the national meet for the first time in a few years.”