Mandi, Fader Set to Lead UW Men Back to NCAA Championships
Sept. 7, 2004
One who previewed the upcoming Husky men's cross country season in June might have picked Washington to make a strong run at the NCAA meet -- three of the Huskies' top-five from a 21st-place effort at the 2003 NCAA Championships were returning, including No. 1 runner Mark Mandi (Everett, Wash.), super frosh Carl Moe (Auburn, Wash.) and 10,000-meter force Mike Sayenko (Bellevue, Wash.).Junior Andy Fader (Everett, Wash.), crucial to the team's near-upset of Oregon for second at the 2003 Pac-10 Championships, and 2003 Emerald City Invitational champion Travis Boyd (Mukilteo, Wash.) were also back to round out the top-five, while a talented group of freshmen headed by prep All-American Tom Wyatt (Lakewood, Wash.) were to battle a hard-working group of underclassmen for the final two traveling spots.Just two months later, however, those plans are in shambles, with Sayenko sidelined by a broken leg, Moe experiencing lingering pain from a spring foot injury, and Wyatt out with a bad back.With Moe and Sayenko sidelined for the early part of the season, Mandi and fellow co-captain Fader face the challenging task of preparing a young squad for the rigors of the postseason.Mandi may be the only healthy returning member of the Husky seven which last fall sent UW to its first NCAA Championships since 1993, but both captains agree that is no reason to think the Huskies won't be back on the line at the NCAA meet in November.What did it mean to finally make it to nationals?
Fader: 'Getting to the NCAAs last year was a great accomplishment for our team, especially the seniors. Those guys had been so close every year, that to finally make it was awesome.'
Mandi: 'Being at nationals and representing your entire school, with that `W' on the front of your jersey, is hard to describe. It's not very often that you can represent 40,000 people -- an entire city -- in a race against hundreds of other people who are there representing their entire Universities, feeling the same sense of responsibility to their schools that you do to yours. Just having the opportunity to do that is indescribable.'What was the biggest difference between last year's team and those that came before?
Mandi: 'The biggest difference last year was depth. We've had a lot of great runners over the years, but to win meets you have to run as a team. Last year, in addition to the four seniors, we had four or five other guys who could run in our top seven.'
Fader: 'We ran tight intervals from our first to fifth runners at Pac-10s and Regionals. That was the biggest difference. If you look at the results, we didn't have any one guy way out in front -- Mark was our top finisher at the NCAAs, and he was 67th. What we did well was stay together as a group, and let our lead runners pull the rest of us along to the finish.'Was there a point in the season where you first realized that this might be the year?
Mandi: 'We really put it all together for the first time at the Pac-10 meet. That meet really opened up our eyes. We hadn't shown that much at our first couple of meets. Then, at Pac-10s, we were running right with Oregon, who had been ranked in the top-five earlier in the season. We already believed in ourselves before then, but that meet really showed what we were capable of as a team.'
Fader: 'That meet was big for me personally, too, because my season hadn't been going so well. On that day, though, it just seemed that everything clicked, everybody ran their best.'
Mandi: 'We had a ton of fan support, too, at Pac-10s and Regionals. Everywhere you looked you just saw a bunch of purple. There were times when I was running up a hill, and I'd start to get fatigued, but then I'd look up and see my teammates and friends cheering me on, and I'd find that extra burst of energy to get to the top. That was a huge help.'
Fader: 'We had way more fans than any other schools at those meets. Everyone's parents were there, everyone's friends. It was great.'With so many seniors graduated, could depth be an issue this year?
Fader: 'We thought we were going to be super deep, with a good returning core and some freshmen who could perhaps run in our top seven. Then Mike Sayenko broke his leg, and Carl Moe is still recovering from a foot injury in the spring, so right there go two of our top-five. Then one of the freshmen, Tom Wyatt, who we had hoped would be able to run in our top seven, gets a stress fracture in his back. But, guys like Adam Shimer and Kevin Peters are stepping it up and having a good summer.'
Mandi: 'It's an awkward situation for us this year. Of the seven who raced at nationals, we only have one returner, which is a scary thought. But then, you think back to what we did last year on the track, with six guys running under 31 minutes for 10,000 meters. A couple of years ago, we only had one of those guys. What that shows is that a lot of the younger guys really stepped up this spring, and that's a result of the hard training they've put in in the last year. Adam Shimer is stepping it up, and so is Kevin Peters. Travis Boyd looks great, he'll be a big factor this year. Matt Owen, too, and Jon Hickey should be solid. There are definitely going to be some new faces in our top seven, but with familiar results.'What will be your most important role as captain this year?
Mandi: 'Experience. Andy and I have the most big-race experience of anyone on our team. Having been around those seniors last year for a couple of years, I've been able to learn a lot from them, in terms of what kind of leadership roles they took. We've learned what it takes to be successful, but also, we've had our share of problems to learn from. All of that experience will help us the most as captains.'
Fader: 'We have to build upon what we've been able to do the last couple of years. Having gotten back to nationals, our goal now is to simply get better and better every year. Now that Mark and I have more experience, we can help train the younger guys, and keep them on track with their workouts.'How has getting to nationals changed the atmosphere of this team?
Fader: 'We have high goals. We sat down last spring and talked about our goals for this fall. A lot of guys stayed in Seattle this summer so that we could train together -- a lot more guys than usual. People are starting to realize that we need to train together as a team; that was what made last year's team great. Everyone puts the team first.'
Mandi: 'This summer, it's been a little different. Every year, I know what it's going to take for me to get better. Just because I'm returning as the No. 1 doesn't mean I'm going to slack off. I know that for us to be a top-10 team, which is what we want, I am going to have to train not only as hard as I can, but as smart as I can, to be peaking at the end of the year. If I'm the No. 5 guy, but am still an All-American, that's great for our team. So, we're focused on the team, but at the same time, you know as an individual you have to be as good as you can be to truly help the team.'What is it going to take for you guys to reach your goals this year?
Fader: 'All that really matters is what you do at the end of the season. The biggest thing will be getting Carl Moe and Mike Sayenko healthy. If they're healthy and able to run for us in the postseason, then we'll be in good shape.'
Mandi: 'I honestly believe that we won't run our best team until nationals. So, if we're running well at Sundodger, Pre-Nationals and Pac-10s, that's going to be exciting for us, because we know we're not running our best guys then. And I'm not trying to take anything away from the guys who will be running in Carl and Mike's place, but if we're running second at Pac-10s without those guys, we know it's only going to make us better when they're back.'Is second at Pac-10s a realistic goal this year?
Mandi: 'Oh, yeah. Winning it is something we can talk about, too. We were right with Oregon for second place last year, and Stanford graduated a lot of guys.'
Fader: 'They're not as invincible as they used to be. Mark beat half of their guys at Pac-10s last year, so if we run well, I think we can beat anybody in the Pac-10. We SHOULD be second, in my opinion.'
Mandi: 'But we're not going to let our guard down. Every team is going to be tough, and every team has guys that can surprise you, so we're not going into the Pac-10 meet thinking that we're going to get second and not looking over our shoulder. There's so much that can affect the meet -- injuries, weather, etc. -- that anything can happen. But, we're in good enough shape that we feel confident that if we run our best, we can beat any team in our conference.'Can any of the freshmen run in our top seven?
Fader: 'I think the standards on our team are a lot higher now than they were in the past. In past years, the best freshman we had coming in would usually make our top five. But now, with the kind of depth we're putting together and the talent that we have accumulated the past couple of years, I think it's going to be tough for a freshman to make that jump. That Carl Moe was able to come in last year and run consistently as our fourth, fifth guy says a lot about how talented he is. It will take someone that talented again to be able to crack our top seven this year. We're deeper and better than we were two years ago, and we were deeper and better then than we were two years before that.'
Mandi: 'It's a tough jump going from 5K in high school to 8K and 10K in college. There might be some guys, though, who are able to do it. Jeremy Mineau has put up some great times in high school, so realistically, he could make an impact. Caleb Knox, too, has made an impression on me as we've run together this summer. He looks really good, and runs really fast. Araya Gobena is also really talented.'
Fader: 'Honestly, I don't even think Mark Mandi would make our team these days.'
Mandi: 'That's probably true. I was a 9:34 guy in high school, and the guys we're bringing in now are 9:10 guys. Our team is getting so good, that I probably wouldn't even get a chance.'What have you learned from Coach Metcalf?
Fader: 'I've done everything coach has told me to do since I first got here, and I've gotten better every year.'
Mandi: 'He's with the team, and he's never going to leave your side. Last year, our women's team started off slow, but he was always there and always supportive. He knew what they were capable of and he wouldn't let them settle for less. He was with them when they were struggling, and he was with them when they were 19th at nationals. He knew what I was capable of before I did. He lets you know what he thinks you can do, even if you doubt yourself. Then he starts pushing you in that direction. That's why we have such a good team. He recruits great guys, because he recognizes what they can do for him.'What's the most important quality a distance runner can have?
Fader: 'The most important things are focus and discipline; the ability to go out and train every single day, even when you don't want to. It doesn't matter how talented you might be, if you don't go out and do the work, you're not going to get very far.'
Mandi: 'The best quality a distance runner can have is belief. Whether that comes from a belief in yourself, a belief in your teammates, or a belief in God, just believing that you're headed in the right direction. If you don't believe you can do it, you're not going to go anywhere. Even if it's a quiet confidence, a belief in yourself is important.'What does running at Washington mean to you?
Fader: 'Running is the most important thing that I do. I put everything I can into running. You only get to run for so long; if you don't make the most of it, you're cheating yourself. The things that we experience with each other are not something that most people you understand; how close you become on those long training runs, and those days when you're totally exhausted.'
Mandi: 'Running as a Husky is the biggest privilege you can have, and not many people realize that. I appreciate what a privilege it is to wear this jersey. I wasn't an all-state runner in high school, so for me to be here, representing this University, is like a second lease on life.'
Fader: 'It's been the best experience of my life.'