November 05, 2013

My Championship Experience – 2013 Men’s Cross Country Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

South Dakota State senior Christian Karels writes about his experience at the 2013 Summit League Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships:

Thursday, October 31st

My roommates and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. in order to eat some breakfast to prepare for the long trip to Fort Wayne, Ind. The trip there would consist of driving to Omaha, Neb., to catch a one-hour flight that would take us to Chicago, Ill., and then travel the rest of the way in two 15-passenger vans. We got to the HPER at 6:00 a.m. to load and board Frank the Tank (a single-axle people mover that has just enough room for the 22 runners and coaches plus our bags) for our trip down to Omaha.  As we began our three and a half-hour drive to Omaha, I put my headphones on and listened to some music to drown out the sound of what seemed like a wind tunnel as Frank the Tank cruised south on I-29. I fell asleep without too much trouble because we had gotten up so early and it would be dark out for another hour and a half.

We arrived at the Omaha airport around 10 a.m. while making one stop along the way for a bathroom break and fuel for the bus. We were flying Southwest Airlines and the flight was scheduled for departure at 11:15 a.m. so we had to check in and get through security without too much delay. Once everyone was through security, we found our gate and sat down to wait until the boarding process started. I was getting hungry so I grabbed a personal pan pizza from one of the shops. Soon enough, it was time to board. Our team took up the rear of the plane. Once in the air, the flight attendants served everyone a beverage and some roasted peanuts. As we came into Chicago to land, there was some turbulence, which made it a little rough. After getting off the plane, we made our way to the baggage claim to collect our luggage. Waiting for us at the airport were two 15-passenger vans, which we would be taking the rest of the way to Fort Wayne.

We left the Chicago airport to go get our run in for the day. I only had to go 5 miles because I front-loaded my mileage for the week. We started our run at Soldier Field and ran along the Lakefront trail, which followed Lake Michigan. It was a rainy day so the run left us nothing short of soaked. Nevertheless, we still had fun on the run trying to chase the friendly geese that would come up close to the path. It was a nice area to run and I would like to do it again when the weather is a little more cooperative.

After we changed out of our soaked running clothes, we got back on the road to Fort Wayne. Getting out of Chicago took a little while because it was around 5:00 p.m., which meant rush hour. Also, we had to stop at a few tollbooths on the way out. Trying to fall asleep in the van was not working out for me, as it was near impossible to get into a comfortable enough position to sleep in with the amount of room that was available. After driving for a while, we stopped in Valparaiso, Ind., to get supper. A few of us went to Qdoba, while others went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. After eating, we still had about 100 miles to go plus a time zone change where we would lose an hour. Once we arrived at the hotel and got our room assignments, I unpacked some things, checked my email and a few things that were posted online regarding my classes. Finally, after a long day of traveling, I went to bed a little before 11:00 p.m.

Friday, November 1st

Drew [Kraft] and I woke up at 8 a.m. and went down to eat some breakfast. A few of the guys were also down there. My meal consisted of orange juice, milk, french toast, fruit, yogurt, and a donut, which was all very delicious. After eating, I went back to the room and watched some TV until it was time to go and run the course for our pre-meet.

At noon, we left for the course. It was a decent day outside, partly cloudy and 50 degrees with a little wind, which by looking at the forecast, was nicer than it was supposed to be on race day. The course was pretty wet due to an inch of rain that had fallen the day before, leaving the grass parts of the course muddy with standing water in other areas. While running the course, we included some one-minute surges throughout the run to serve as some strides. The course had quite a few turns along with one loop that went into a wooded area with a gravel trail. I wasn’t quite sure what my plans were regarding spikes in that area as of yet. It would be a tough choice to change out the longer spikes for shorter ones especially with all the turns and the grass portion of the course being muddy and soft. The course was marked very well which should make it easy to know where I’m at during the race tomorrow. After doing our myrtle and some stretching, we headed out for lunch. We went to an area of town that had Panera Bread and a Subway nearby. I went to the Subway with most of the guys, while the girls chose Panera. After eating, we left to search out a Wal-Mart in order to get some Gatorade and snacks.

We got back to the hotel around 3 p.m. I had to do some ironing work on my dress clothes so they would be ready for the banquet later that night, because I had to pack them in my bag instead of having them on a hanger for the trip, they were slightly wrinkled. After finishing with that, I worked on some homework and looked at other conference results that had already taken place throughout the nation until it was time to get ready for the banquet. We left for the banquet at 5:30 p.m. and ended up being the first ones there. It didn’t take long to find out that it wasn’t supposed to start until 6:30 p.m., which made us really early. We then proceeded to take about a thousand pictures since we had a lot of free time. When the other teams showed up, the banquet started and the speakers kept their speeches short and to the point, which was a little surprising, but it meant that we were able to eat sooner. The food was very delicious, as they had prepared a few different main courses along with cheesecake and carrot cake for desert. After the banquet, we headed back to the hotel for team meetings before heading to bed. Our coach gave us a pretty good rundown of what we had to do tomorrow and how we should approach it. He left us with a lot to think about as we headed to bed.

Saturday, November 2nd

 Drew and I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to go and do a two-mile shakeout run with Trent [Lusignan]. After the short run, we went and ate a light breakfast. The men’s team was going to leave for the course at 9:30 a.m. so we had a couple of free hours. I used them to shower and get my bag packed, as we were not coming back to the hotel after the race because we were going to be rushed for time to make our flight out of Chicago back to Omaha. We dressed and prepared for the worst conditions during race time. There was a 40 percent chance of rain during race time with 10 mph winds and temperatures in the low 40s. Since the course was going to be muddy and wet, we planned on wrapping our spikes with tape to keep them from coming untied and possibly getting stepped on and coming off during the race. When we arrived at the course, I went to look at the areas where we would be running to see what they were like. Since yesterday when we did our pre-meet, the course seemed to have dried off quite a bit and the areas with water disappeared a little. We started our warm-up a little after 10 a.m. I tried to keep myself from getting nervous or worried about the race. Before I knew it, it was time to spike up and head over to the starting line for our last stride outs, final words from our coach, and our team huddle. At this point, I was getting excited and anxious to get going. Once the gun went off and we were on our way I was purely focused on the race and giving it my best effort. I finished the race with a respectable time in my mind but was more concerned on how our team did. Talking with coach and our graduate assistant, it was going to be close with USD if we were going to defend our 2012 title. We were trying to add the points up in our head but it was too close to call without seeing the results on paper. Just as we were about to leave for our cool down, the results came over and we edged out USD by just one point (41-42). Everyone was instantly relieved and happy. Then we went to start our cool down and cheer on the girl’s team. They ran really well and ended up placing second behind NDSU.

After the awards, we had to load up the vans and head out if we were going to make out flight out of Chicago on time. Both teams left the course with a lot of accolades. On the men’s side, Trent Lusignan captured the Individual Championship, was named to the All-League First Team, and was the Championship MVP of the race. Brendan Sage was named the Newcomer of the Championship and to the All-League Second Team.  Two Jackrabbits were named to the All-League First Team and three were named to All-League Second Team and coach Rod DeHaven was awarded Coach of the Year. The women’s team placed second to NDSU with Cheyanne Bowers taking second place in the meet. Just like the men, they also had two runners make the All-League First Team and three make the All-League Second Team.

The ride to the Chicago airport was pretty quiet as everyone was exhausted from the meet. We ended up making it to our gate with time to spare before our plane was scheduled for departure. The plane ride to Omaha was short and relaxing because there were not very many people on our flight. After getting our luggage it was time to board Frank the Tank again for our final stretch of driving back to Brookings, S.D. We made a quick stop for supper in Missouri Valley, Iowa, and got back to Brookings around 11 p.m. Due to daylight savings time ending, we would get an extra hour of sleep tonight, which was much needed after the long weekend.

I enjoyed my championship experience to the fullest extent and am very glad I was able to share it with my teammates. I will forever remember all of the memories and events that took place over the weekend. Now that The Summit League Championships is in the books, it is time to start thinking about what our teams can do at the Midwest Regional.

Thanks for reading,

Christian Karels

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Women’s Soccer Championship, Nov. 8/10 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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