The Finishing Kick with Jake Schmitt

Oct. 7, 2008

Last week began with the announcement of the new national and regional rankings for the 2008 cross-country season. The Dawgs had moved up in this week's poll, the men to seventh in a tough west region and the ladies to the number two spot in the country. Both teams took these numbers and continued on with what we set out to accomplish this season. The week prior to the Auburn Invitational was a standard pre-meet experience. The guys and girls shook off the 'speed cobwebs' with some repeat 1000's in the swamp and then some snappy 400s out in the IMA field. This was the first time for most of us getting to feel that quick pace; and it felt great. Most of all, Jeremy Mineau was definitely beginning to show signs of the true cross-country beast that he really is. His tenacity is beginning to show through after all those miles logged on the bike, in the pool, or on the alter-G treadmill. All in all Tuesday was a very solid day, but everyone on the team saved room for Wednesday, and of course Saturday's race.

Wednesday found us hitting up the Greenlake loop for a controlled tempo run and then back to the fields for some shakeout 200s. Perhaps with a little more built-up pre-race anxiety the men set off on our speedy tour of Greenlake. Jon Harding looked on point, as usual, and was setting a very nice standard around the lake. Afterwards, both men and women laced up our spikes for a few 200s. Everyone seemed ready and excited for the coming days in the south.

Thursday marked our departure for the South, and 'Tiger Country.' Upon arrival to the town of Auburn we all quickly learned of its deep passion for football and school spirit. After a crash course in the legend of the War Eagle we were up to snuff in our understanding of the Tiger lifestyle. However, we were there to race, and more importantly, we were ready. Friday was standard pre-race activities including a light run, strides, pasta dinner, and an early bedtime.

Saturday morning was just like any other in Alabama, beautiful, warm, and mellow; except of course, the hundreds of jittery runners. The guys departed for the course clad in purple and gold and equipped with the essentials: coffee and iPods. As the next couple of hours crawled by we were able to comfort each other's nerves with small jokes and wishes of encouragement. Perhaps the biggest ease of nerves came as we watched the lady Huskies absolutely decimate the field. Led by Kendra 'Kenny' Schaaf our ladies won the Auburn Invitational in dramatic fashion going 1-2-3-6-7-8-9. Now all the guys needed to do was take a deep breath, warm up, and head over to the starting line.

When the gun shot the race took off as expected. The Husky men made a mad dash downhill to create a good position for an immediate right hand turn. However, even after a quick start two Auburn men were already leading, and showed no signs of easing the pace. The men's field, led by the two Auburn racers, tore through the first mile setting a blistering pace. I was comforted while racing hearing the names of my teammates right behind me. As I was running the cheers for my teammates Jeremy, John, Colton, and Chris, let me know that we were running well. As the race wound on another Auburn runner pushed past me and then my teammate Jeremy came up to help lead the Husky freight train. Seeing Jeremy take control and lead our Dawgs gave me huge confidence in our post-season capabilities at Pac-10s, Regionals, and Nationals. By race end Jon had made a strong push for the finish as well and finished a couple of ticks in front of me. Not far behind were Colton Tully-Doyle and then Chris Ahl, both having great days. With five runners in, scoring had been completed and we finished a strong second place. The men posed a good fight for the highly ranked Auburn men on their own home course.

The finish line might have ended one portion to the weekend, but definitely opened up the next chapter in our trip. Coach Metcalf got to show us around his old stomping grounds, feed us some good southern cooking, and introduce us to his old friends and coaches. In the end, if this weekend was any indication of what is to come from these 2008 Huskies, then, 'watch out NCAA...'

-Jake Schmitt

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