The Guilfordian

Filed under In Print, Sports

Cross country sees success despite roster

The Guilford College Cross-Country team suffered a major setback early in the season with the late announcement of new Director of Track and Field/Cross-country Operations Marty Owens. Many of the athletes who competed last year did not return, leaving Owens with no athletes to train.

Owens, through his experience with recruiting, reached out to assistant coach Marla Lindsay to brainstorm an idea of how to fill the roster. They concluded that, although sub-optimal, they could use sprinters from the indoor and outdoor track and field roster. Owens understood that training these athletes to run long distance would put a heavy toll on them as the season progressed and thought it would be best to alter their training regimen.

“As a sprinter, it is a lot to take on for them,” said Owens. “Their character shines through their training and overall effort during the season. I understood that they would not do well enough to score and win competitions simply because they are not apt to running these longer distances. Would we like to score as a team? Yes. Do we do that to the detriment of their track and field careers here at Guilford? No.”

Senior Mahmoud Henderson is one of the few sprinters who volunteered to run for the cross-country program. He says that Guilford alum Josephus Mitchell ‘18, who ran track and field and competed with the cross-country team for one season, motivated him to run. He also says that he has enjoyed training under Owens.

“Stick with it, don’t stop running, and try your best not to come last when competing,” said Henderson. “Those are the words of former alum (Mitchell). Training under Marty has allowed me to run longer and increased my endurance for sure this year. I immediately felt it my first practice with the track team. I wasn’t as gassed or tired as I anticipated because of the cross-country training I did.

At the Hornet Harrier Invitational on Sept. 22, Henderson was the lone competitor for the men’s team. Although scoring 113th out of 120 athletes in the 8k race with a time of 32:41, Henderson says that this does not concern him. He says he is proud to be on any Guilford team and results do not mean much to him.

“I love Guilford College,” said Henderson. “I love representing the school. This was an amazing opportunity and privilege to run and it meant everything to me. I look forward to seeing how it grows from here on out and what will come from it.”

On Oct. 18 the women’s team competed in the Livingstone Cross Country Invitational held at Salisbury Community Park. Sophomore Marian Cooper won the 5k out-right with a time of 21:37, finishing ahead of 18 other athletes and well ahead of second place Livingstone athlete Angel Ewell by 19 seconds.

“It was a very small meet because it had been canceled and rescheduled due to the weather, but it was a lot of fun and winning was a confidence booster,” said Cooper. “I hadn’t raced a 5k in over a year, so I didn’t really know what to expect.”

Owens was surprised and excited for Cooper winning the event. He says that they have improved quickly through training and this can be the result for many athletes that will come to Guilford to run.

“This is Marian’s first season running here at Guilford, but (they) have tremendous experience with running,” said Owens. “(They) are very competitive and have the drive to win. Marian has set the bar pretty high so far, and I can only see a bright future ahead. We can take this as far as (they) want it to go and (they) are a key foundation to this program if (they) return next season.”

Looking ahead, Owens hopes that next year he will not have to pull from track and field athletes to fill the roster. He says that he has promised his sprinters he will not ask them to run cross-country, and now that Cooper has set the ground work for the team, he is eager to start recruiting.

“I think we are going to get some talented recruits, as the concept of being able to make a large impact on a team as (first-year) is a strong pulling point for the program right now,” said Cooper. “I’m excited to be a part of the team in the future, Marty is an experienced coach and he knows how to build up a team and work with all kinds of runners. I think the team is going to steadily improve and expand.”

Guilford took four athletes to the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championship at Winchester, Virginia on Oct. 27. Among them, Cooper took charge. Cooper’s 8-kilometer time of 26:03 is the 26th-best time in school history. On the men’s side, first-years Will Nowatka and Darby Houghton both finished strong as well.

Reflecting on the season, Henderson says that as a senior running cross-country this year has impacted his life. He says he enjoys the community and learning from others who are experienced in the sport.

“This season was actually really fun,” said Henderson. “I made new friends within the cross community and lifelong friends. I enjoyed it and hope to make distance running a lifestyle.”

If Owens continues the season, Guilford cross country will compete in the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regionals at Berry College Clara Bowl in Mt. Berry, Georgia.

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