Five Seniors Have Men's Cross-Country Primed for NCAA Run

Sept. 3, 2003

Following is the first in a three-part series previewing the 2003 Washington cross-country season, all leading up to Saturday's 2003 cross-country debut at the Emerald City Invitational at Woodland Park.

Today: Husky men's captains Todd Arnold and Ben Koss preview the 2003 men's cross-country season.
Thursday: Husky women's captains Lindsey Egerdahl and Camille Connelly preview the 2003 women's cross-country season.Friday: A closer look at what head coach Greg Metcalf calls one of the top incoming classes in UW history.

What is the best thing about running for Greg Metcalf?
Todd:
'He's young and very excited. He can relate to the athletes really well, because he was an athlete here himself and has experienced everything that we go through.'
Ben: 'His enthusiasm is inrfectious. He makes you excited to come to practice and work hard. He knows his running, but he also knows how to have a good time.
Todd: 'He's easy to relate to, and has a terrific ability to communicate. I think that's the most important thing in a coach-athlete relationship - the ability to communicate and speak your mind.'

How has he helped you improve the most as a runner?
Ben:
'He constantly pushes me to do harder workouts and run more miles. He really believes in you as a runner. If he thinks you can accomplish something, he doesn't hesitate to let you know.'
Todd: 'I know that Greg believes in my ability as much as I do. That's important to me, to know that my coach is behind me 100 percent.'

What is the best thing about being a distance runner at Washington?
Todd:
'We have a great group of guys. I love working hard for these guys.'
Ben: 'I agree. The camaraderie of the team is amazing. Working together so much, there's a real feeling of brotherhood.'

What kind of qualities does one have to possess to be a successful distance runner?
Todd:
'You have to have the desire, first and foremost. You have to be willing to put in the hard work, you have to be willing to - '
Ben: '- make sacrifices.'
Todd: 'Definitely. You have to be willing to put other things in life that might be important to most 20-year-olds - parties, internships - on the back burner for three, four or five years so that you can focus all of your attention on being the best runner possible.'
Ben: 'You only have one shot to find out just how good of a cross-country runner you can be. You have the rest of your life to travel and get different jobs.'
Todd: 'To be a distance runner, you have to be incredibly mentally tough. Making sacrifices is a big part of that.'

What has been missing over the last 10 years that has kept the UW out of the NCAA Championships?
Todd:
'We haven't had an entire team believing that we could do it. This year our leadership believes, and that trickles down to the rest of the team. Our team is virtually unchanged from last year, except that we are older and more experienced, and have some new additions who should help right away.'
Ben: 'Belief is what we've needed - belief in the training and belief in your teammates, that we can all go out and run fantastic on the same day. With the five seniors all working together as leaders this fall, I don't there's going to be a lot of messing around. I know that Todd and I have big plans and big goals. We have a lot of things we want to accomplish as a team this year, and as leaders, the pressure is on us to make sure that we reach those goals.'
Todd: 'As five seniors, we've been through it all. We've experienced the end of every season, watching our women's team go to the NCAAs without us. We know that this is our last shot, and we're going to do everything in our power to take the guys on our team where we want to go.'

Is providing leadership going to be your most important role as a captain?
Todd:
'Absolutely. There's a lot of ways you can be a leader. Some guys are quiet and lead by busting their hump in every single workout, and other guys are more vocal. I think Ben and I are a combination of those two. Our biggest job is going to be to go out and lead, not just in races but also off the course.'
Ben: 'A lot of being a leader, too, is just doing the things that your coach wants you to do. People can tell you what to do all they want, but when you see the guys you look up to doing it, it affects you a bit more.'
Todd: 'It's an attitude and belief. If you carry yourself with a winning attitude, people will recognize that and want to emulate it.'

Who are you counting on to be your go-to-guys this season?
Todd:
'Ben, for sure. He was in the top-10 at Regionals last year. He's a 10K guy, and we need that. He's going to be someone we count on for sure this season.'
Ben: 'Todd, Eric Garner and John Russell all ran deep into the postseason during the last track season, which was important in that it proved to everybody that we already have on this team what it takes to be successful against the top competition.'

Do you see any of the younger runners on the team making the jump into the top-seven this year?
Ben:
'We have a good group of guys who believe in themselves and in the team.'
Todd: 'Of the people that I've seen training this summer, the ones I think are ready to step up and contribute big-time are Mark Mandi, Mike Sayenko and Andy Fader.'
Ben: 'I agree completely. Those guys have trained really hard over the summer. Mark has improved by leaps and bounds every summer. He works so hard, and is so confident.'

What is it going to take to make the University of Washington an annual challenger at the NCAA Championships?
Todd:
'First off, you have to have talent, and I think that our last couple of recruiting classes believe that they belong among the top teams in the country every year. Also, you have to have the leaders who can get you there, who have the ability to run at the front of the pack and lift the team to those lofty levels.'
Ben: 'It's also important to have a bunch of guys who would maybe just be considered average in terms of talent, but work super-hard and always give 100 percent. Those are the guys who are going to fill out your third, fourth and fifth spots.'
Todd: 'That's the meat of your team right there.'
Ben: 'But you also need the guys who can run with anybody in the nation. That combination of talent and determination is what makes for the best runners, and the best teams.'

How do you sell the University of Washington?
Todd:
'We have one heck of a group of guys, and we're pretty talented. If we can just put it together one year, recruits will see that, and recognize that there's a tremendous opportunity for them to come to the University of Washington and play a significant role in making us a top-10 team. We're just one body away every year.'

Are there any guys coming in this year who you think can be competitive right away?
Ben:
'Carl Moe.'
Todd: 'He was one of the fastest high schoolers in the nation last year.'
Ben: 'He's very mature, and has that necessary combination of determination and talent.'
Todd: 'I expect a pretty immediate impact from him in both cross country and track this year.'
Ben: 'He ran with us some this summer, and I think that's helped put him a step or two ahead.'
Todd: 'The first part of the season can often be kind of shock.'
Ben: 'It's really awkward, just trying to adjust to school and the amount of training and your new teammates.'
Todd: 'Working out with the team over the summer definitely makes it an easier transition.'

Who are the teams in the West Region that will be the biggest obstacles to your goal of reaching the NCAA meet?
Ben:
'The University of Portland always has a pretty good team. They finished a little ahead of us at Regionals last year, so they're a team we'll need to get past to make the national field. Also, Arizona State, they're another team that is usually battling us for that last spot into the NCAAs.'

What's the toughest thing about being a cross-country runner?
Todd:
'I don't really look at it as being tough. It can be monotonous sometimes, especially when you're dealing with fatigue late in the season.'
Ben: 'The lack of glory ...'
Todd: 'The season is long. You only have so many 10,000 meter efforts in your body. Staying motivated all season is a challenge.'

What does Husky cross-country mean to you?
Todd:
'It's the reason I'm here. I know it's a clich�, but it really is the best part of my day. I'm so excited to be with these guys every day and work together towards our goals. It's the highlight of my college experience.'
Ben: 'I want to prove to people who say that Washington will never be consistently successful that we can have a top-10 team, and that it's going to start with this year, our senior year. We need to have a solid season to show people that it can be done.'

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