For the men’s cross country team, October magic carried into November for arguably the most critical meet of the season, Regionals. This past Saturday at the NCAA Championships, the magic was in full supply once more.
The Light Blue finished in 17th place at Nationals, topping off an impressive run to the end of what has been one of the most successful seasons of the program to date. The top-20 finish is both a program record and a 10-spot improvement from its 27th-place finish last year at Nationals.
“We took a huge step forward last year, and I think everyone came in very confident this year with the expectation that we are going to achieve big,” head coach Willy Wood said.
Looking back at the successes that the men have experienced in the past three months, “achieving big” is an understatement, and the top-20 finish at Nationals was a fitting way to bring the season to a close.
“We all just came together on the right days, and it was really just a group of people who, one, dedicated themselves to the task, and, probably secondly, really believed honestly they could do this,” Wood said.
At each of the elite-level meets of the season, including Louisville, Wisconsin, and Regionals, the team was led by a dominant group of upperclassmen, and Nationals was no exception.
Senior Mark Feigen led the way for the Light Blue, taking 61st place in a field of nearly 250 athletes. Junior Jacob Sienko was not far behind, finishing in 74th place, and senior Mike Murphy rounded out the top 100.
“We had a lot of confidence coming into the season after how we performed last year during the cross country season and on the track,” Feigen said. “This allowed us to train at a really high level and set high goals for ourselves.”
With each of the select upperclassmen capable of leading the team on any given day, the Lions have been able to rely on each other to put together an outstanding season.
“I believe this has been the best season Columbia cross country has ever had,” Feigen said. “We have been through a lot together as a team, but have never given up on our goals.”
Wood cited the accumulation of achievements and experience that this year’s seniors have had during their careers as one of the reasons why this season has been truly remarkable.
“It’s just been a progression of each year getting significantly better for them,” Wood said. “Beyond being talented, beyond being very committed to what they’re trying to accomplish, they’ve also just had a great deal of experience. They’ve taken each logical step along the way, and it’s led them to where they are now.”
Feigen emphasized self-perception as another critical key to the team’s success.
“In the past, we have always considered ourselves as underdogs, and by changing how we perceive ourselves, we have been able to elevate our performances as a team,” he said.
With this new mentality and the season’s successes under their belts, the men could be set for another strong performance in the upcoming indoor track season.