Eastern Michigan mens cross country team places ahead of pack in opening meet of season

Cross country coach John Goodridge, shown at right last year, has a team that finished first in the Running Fit Titan Invite.

The Eastern Michigan University cross country team placed first Saturday at Detroit in the Running Fit Titan Invitational to open the season.

Sophomore James Hughes led Eastern with a first-place effort in a time of 20:25. The Eagles also had two other runners finish in the top 10. After falling just short of a sixth consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship in last year’s conference meet, one would think coach John Goodridge would not change much of his tactics as the Eagles were mere points away from the title, but one runner disagrees.

According to some of the runners on the team, coach Goodridge is using his assistant coaches more than he has in previous seasons.

So far, that strategy is working as the Eagles will go into an idle weekend with a perfect record. But the lingering question remains: What is coach Goodridge doing he hasn’t done in the past? After winning five straight MAC titles prior to last year’s second place-finish, what needs to change?

“We are in the weight room two to three times a week,” freshman Daniel Egner of Novi said. “That is something the team last year didn’t do. We are constantly running the hills. 400 meters up and down a hill at least four times, depending on the speed of return.”

International student and freshman Grzegorz Kalinowski has also been spotted doing running stretches he learned in his home country of Poland, some Americans have never seen.

So far, what Goodridge has been doing to prepare his team for another long season of distance running has been working, but practices only officially began Sept. 8. It is the individual’s responsibility to keep himself in shape during the off-season.

Kalinowski recorded a 1,500-meter time of 3:45 during a competitive summer meet, an advantage domestic runners don’t have. Egner, made 8-10 mile runs with a mid-six minutes per mile pace a daily routine. His “easy” workouts consisted of seven miles at an eight-minute per mile pace.

“I ran at least 500 miles this summer,” Egner said, “I can guarantee that others trained harder than that.”

The average individual probably doesn’t run 500 miles in a year, but these athletes train harder, at least in terms of distance running, than any others in the region.

“We are going into this year with as much confidence as we have had,” Egner said with a smile, “at least according to the veterans.”

Interesting he should say that as Eastern touts eight new faces on their roster this year. With youth comes new energy and new leadership. Hughes is one example of this young leadership.

“I’m not going to guarantee anything, but I definitely think we can make an impression this year,” Egner said.

The team’s next meet is on Saturday Sept. 25 at the University of Western Ontario.

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