If you saw Curtis Vollmar, you probably wouldn’t think he’s walking around campus with an Eastern Michigan University cross-country record in his back pocket. Maybe it’s his modesty that masks his excitement, but his 19:54.00 four-mile race four weeks ago was the fastest in one of the school’s most successful sports.
Former EMU runners Corey Nowitzke and Neal Naughton ran in the Detroit Titan Invitational that day, though not officially affiliated with the university. They helped guide Vollmar by letting him draft behind them for most of the race.
“I just kind of drafted off of them, and they dropped off the last mile,” said Vollmar, from Grand Blanc. “It wasn’t really that huge of a deal—more of just a training run, really.”
Nowitzke, a former All-American, knew what it meant to race as Eastern’s No. 1 runner before graduating in 2007. Leading the storied EMU cross country program is something Vollmar knew he’d have to do going into the Titan Invitational, along with being named All-MAC last season and being one of two returning seniors.
Vollmar has dealt with the pressure well because after his historic first race he posted fifth- and second-place finishes at the Spartan and Notre Dame Invitationals, respectively.
John Goodridge is the mastermind behind the success of EMU’s runners, in his ninth season as coach. He’s coached the Eagles to four consecutive MAC championships and was pleased with the training and development Vollmar made coming into the 2009 season.
“We started this year without a team member that had ever run in the number one position for Eastern,” Goodridge said. “Just go down any year and look at the number-one runner at Eastern, and chances are he’s been a MAC champion or an All-American.
“Curtis has embraced that wonderfully and had the best summer preparation he’s ever had. He’s been racing extremely well, and we’re looking forward to the remainder of the season.”
Next for EMU is the Michigan Intercollegiate at 4 p.m. Friday in Grand Rapids. While it’s still important to stay sharp at events like this, it doesn’t matter much in the eyes of Vollmar and the rest of the team. They see it as practice for their overall goal of winning the MAC championship, Oct. 31 at the Ohio University.