My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.
North Dakota State senior Maddie McClellan writes about her experience at the 2013 Summit League Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships:
First of all, I want to thank The Summit League, my coach, Ryun Godfrey, and especially my team for making this weekend so memorable. Cross country wouldn’t be the same without my teammates, and I’m sad to see my cross country career coming to an end. I have such a passion for this sport, and I’m going to miss all the hills and valleys that come along with it. I’m sure all cross country runners can relate to my love/hate relationship with distance running. I love what running has taught me. I love the hard work, the team bonding, the guts it takes to keep running when all you want to do is stop. But when you’re racing, you have to constantly battle negative thoughts, constantly tell yourself that you can work harder than you ever thought you could if you would only just hang on, keep pushing. As weird as it sounds, I’m going to miss the mental struggle that comes along with cross country racing, because those struggles teach you so much about the person you are and the person you can be.
I arrived at the Bison Sports Arena in my sweats, lugging a yellow duffel full of gear and my backpack full of homework. I was the first one there, which is a pretty rare occurrence. [Coach] Ryun [Godfrey] showed up around six, and joked that I’ve never been that early in my life. Once everyone showed up, sleepy-eyed but ready to go, we headed to the airport.
Once we got to our hotel, we quickly changed into our pre-meet gear. Fifteen minutes later, we were back in the van. We heard the course was soggy, but we still wanted to run it. I’m notorious for not remembering the course, so I was determined to commit the directions to memory. It was freezing out! Even though we’re North Dakotans, we still can be babies about the cold. We ran our pre-meet and enjoyed every second of it, even though our feet were cold and soggy. The course was beautiful. Unlike Fargo, there are trees ablaze with gold, red, and yellow. We were more excited than ever about the race. I knew that my team was ready to do great things, and I couldn’t wait to see the results of all our hard work.
Getting ready for the banquet is always fun. It’s not often that we get to see each other in clothes other than running gear and our hair not in pony-tails. Erin [Teschuk] even brushed her hair! We sat down at our table and were tortured by the desserts that were already placed in front of us. I decided that dessert first wasn’t such a bad idea. We all wolfed down our food, not concerned at all with being lady-like. After the dinner, we took pictures with the guys team, who, not surprisingly, were all wearing either bow-ties or suspenders. During pictures, I thought of how much I will miss being on a team like this. These are the people that I love.
[Coach] Ryun got back from his coach’s meeting and shot me a text, “Maddie, 8:50. Room 318.” My heart jumped into my throat. Whenever we travel, we have a team meeting the night before the race. [Coach] Ryun goes over any details we need to know about the following day and shares any words of wisdom he might have. A lot of this wisdom comes from whatever book he’s reading at the time, and I have to say, he is a pretty great motivator. But, conference is different. Every year, the night before conference, seniors take over [Coach] Ryun’s part-time job as motivational speaker. I walked into room 318 and immediately knew that everything I wanted to tell my teammates could not possibly be captured in such a short amount of time. I panicked. Heidi Peterson went first. Of course, she started crying. Everything she said about running and cross country resonated with how I feel. One of the things she shared was, “Running is a part of life; it’s not your whole life. This is such a short time, and it goes by so fast.” Heidi has been an amazing team leader and teammate, and she definitely conveyed that in her speech. I was up next. My heart was pounding and my face was burning. I didn’t organize what I wanted to say, so I just started sharing what running has taught me. Confidence. Perseverance. Determination. Mental toughness. Cross country has undoubtedly helped shape me into the person I am today, and I am forever grateful for the people that encouraged me along the way. I finally shared a quote by George Eliot, “It is never too late to be who you might have been.” In running and in life, I want my teammates to pursue what they love wholeheartedly. If they do this, they can never look back and say they didn’t try.
The speeches were over, thankfully. We left the room and went to bed, ready to compete the next day.
[Coach] Larson, the guys’ coach, drove us to the course. He told us a story about a runner that was taken out by a deer during a race, and we all looked at each other and laughed. [Coach] Lars’ brain is an endless book of stories.
We got to the course and walked to our team camp. We had about 15 minutes before we had to warm up, and we were all anxious to start. Abbi [Aspengren] and Brecca [Wahlund] went to the bathroom about nine times, and then we started jogging towards the woods. I think we all had nerves at this point, but our warm-up went smoothly. We cheered our guys on as we ran through the woods and then headed back to go to the bathroom just three more times and put our spikes on.
Once we were at the line, we did a few strides. [Coach] Ryun walked out to talk to us one last time and told us that he is proud of our hard work and was excited to see what we could do. [Coach] Ryun kept it simple, but what he said meant a lot to us. We yelled, “Bison!” and got together to pray as a team. I thanked God for bringing us to one more conference meet safely and asked that we could run to the best of our abilities, not for ourselves, but for each other. We strided back to the line and waited for the gun to go off.
During the race, Brecca and I ran together. We pushed each other through about half of the race before she left me behind. I tried my best through the rest of the race, and was elated to see Brecca pass SDSU for first place near the end. I started to take a wrong turn near the end, but was corrected and gutted out my last 400 meters with all I had left. I finished in third place and watched my teammates cross the line. We had five girls in the top ten: 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th. I am proud to be a Bison!
That night, we went to a scary movie. This tradition started when I took Heidi to her first scary movie, Paranormal Activity. This time we went to the remake of Carrie. [Coach] Ryun went to his usual three-hour-long historical film. I ordered an Icee the size of my head and Heidi clutched my arm so hard during the movie that I thought I would have finger-sized bruises on my forearm for a week.
I awoke suddenly, startled by a knock at the door. I yelled and bolted out of bed. Brecca was at the door to tell Abbi and I that we were LATE. Of course this would happen! We scrambled around our room, throwing our stuff into our bags and rushed downstairs. I think we had more adrenaline rushing through our bodies than when we were racing! We hopped in the van, and [Coach] Ryun drove us to the airport. We. Are. Exhausted. The flights and layovers go smoothly, and we arrived at noon in Fargo, N.D.: Home of the Bison.
What a whirlwind the weekend had been. I am honored to be part of The Summit League and a member of the Bison cross country team, now the three-time league champions. Conference is over, but I’m already looking ahead; I’m always excited to see what the Bison will do next.
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.