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Cross Country Ready For 2021 Season

Aug 13, 2021
Mark Wetmore and Rachel McArthur answer questions at media day

BOULDER – The Colorado men's and women's cross country programs will start practice on August 16 in preparation for the 2021 season.
Both teams return every post-season scorer and look to capitalize on the experience the younger team members gained during the 2020 season, which took place during February and March of 2021.
Head coach Mark Wetmore and senior Rachel McArthur were present for CU's annual media day on Friday, August 13. A complete transcript is available below.
Opening Statement
Good morning. Thanks for coming. Thanks for your interest. Here we go again, hopefully, with a more normal year, and a more normal cross country season. I don't know if we did this a year ago. But from March of '20, until now, it's been an unpredictable and unimaginable, strange year, culminating with a cross country with a '20 cross country season in March of '21; which none of us were thrilled with. Is that okay, Rach, to say that? But we weren't totally thrilled with how we did in March of '21. And so now we get to redo I guess, a few months later, six months later, anyway. We're ready. Rachel was our number one runner throughout most of the fall last year, led our team in almost all of our races, so she will speak some. She'll answer your questions about the women's team. I can help a little bit with the men if you want.
And then briefly, Val. Val, was a good runner for us, an NCAA finalist in the steeplechase for us. On our 2018 NCAA championship cross country team. But honestly, and I would say this if she was in the room, nothing that forecasts being an Olympic finalist. But upon graduation and settling into a grown-up life, she found time to continue to run and continue to make improvements in her athletic life and really transformed herself. Far more to her credit than to mine or coach Burroughs. She did it so much on our own, and became a whole new runner. I just left her a few minutes ago. She was here with some of you earlier today. There's a world championship in 2022, another world championship in '23 and Olympic Games in '24. And that was the subject of our conversation 10 minutes ago is what comes down. So super proud of her and for her. And I think you'll be seeing some more of her before long. We're all yours now.
On altering workouts due to environmental factors this year (air pollution and smoke)-
We follow the air quality index, which has been imperfect for sure for a week or two weeks. But it was much worse sometimes last fall when we did have to tell them to have a day off. So far we've been able to run every day. It's more troublesome from one individual to the next. So we've had some people that needed to go on the treadmill but as Rachel said just about everybody's pushed through it so far. Today's a great day.
On this year's recruiting class, and expectations for this group
The world of transfers has changed a lot in the last few years, making it much easier for an athlete to leave one school with a degree and yet have eligibility to use somewhere else. It's too complicated to go into great detail here today but we will have three male and two female experienced people joining our squads that could help our varsities immediately, we hope. Then also, we've had a successful year with young people, with true freshmen. Most noticeably on the men's side where we have 10, usually we have four. So there are a lot of new faces. They all have aspirations. Both the men's teams and the women's teams could appear quite differently by October.
On Eduardo Herrera's end of season, and approach to encourage growth this Summer
I feel like I didn't handle him well, from March of '20, to June of '21, almost July of '21. It was a year that we'd never experienced before and we were making it up as we went along and we made the best decisions we could but in retrospect, I feel there were some decisions I wish I had in a different way. So he was getting tired by the end of the outdoor track season. He had some excellent cross country races for us. He won the Pac-12 Cross Country Championship in early March, ran some very good track races, a school record holder in the 1500. And ran one of the fastest 5000-meter times in the outdoor track season, just a handful of weeks after cross country concluded. But he did indeed end June disappointed with his performance at the NCAA, which is more my fault than his. Anyway, what was obvious was that he needed a big rest. So after the Olympic Trials, I gave him the longest rest I've ever given any collegiate athlete and told him to go home, don't move a muscle. I think he might have moved a muscle or two because he returned just 10 days ago in pretty good shape, very well rested. As well as topped off I think. And now we just have to resume racing carefully.
On Val Constien's comment regarding Wetmore as one of the best coaches in the world and what sets Colorado's program apart from other schools
Well, we have everything you need to be a great middle and long-distance runner here in Colorado. Now of course Val's out two years, but she had four, five years with us and then she has the momentum of that still. And so we have a great town. We have access to hundreds of miles of unpaved training venues. We have a town that appreciates athletes like Val and Jenny Simpson and Emma Coburn and our collegians. When you go to a restaurant in town there are pictures on the wall. Heather Burroughs is the best associate head coach in the country, we wouldn't be nearly as good without her. We have an excellent nutritional staff. Excellent strength and conditioning staff. My recruiting coordinator Billy Nelson is the best. So, she praises me, but it takes a village to raise a team and we have a good village.
On the altitude impact on running (advantage or disadvantage), as well as the impact of multiple below sea level locations on the schedule
Rachel and I were just discussing this 10 minutes ago that we don't feel it's an advantage to train up here. A lot of people asked me that; if it's an advantage to train at this altitude. I don't think it's a big advantage to train up here. I think it probably is an advantage to race opponents up here, but in the sport of cross country, we never do. So we go to sea level, and we may have a few more red blood cells than the sea level team… but also we train a lot slower because we're up here all the time. I think it's a balance. Anyway, probably an advantage if they come up here to race us, but that only happens once every 12 years.
Senior Rachel McArthur
On altering workouts due to environmental factors this year (air pollution and smoke)
I don't think the assignments have varied much. I mean, we just do what we're told. I'd say a lot of the runs you can feel the difference with the air quality as you mentioned, and you know, the heat and the fires obviously do affect you. But I don't think anything has been too crazy to manage. You know, we still run outside every day. I haven't hit the treadmill at all. And we just kind of workaround that. If we need to go earlier, we go earlier. If we need to go later, we go later, we just kind of make it work.
On managing shortened track and cross country season, as well as back to back seasons for the two sports
I think that's difficult to answer because kind of. I feel both ways. It obviously has been a long season for track and now cross country. I think it felt a lot longer when we didn't have races going on. So that was tough to balance that and keep going. But no, I think when it comes to summer, especially, training comes pretty naturally. And it's pretty easy to just run a lot and not really think much of it. So while it's been a long season, we're now just building a lot of mileage. And you know, the team is really coming together and everyone's working really hard, so nothing feels too strenuous or overwhelming.
On her training regime and changes made for improvement
I mean every year obviously I just want to get better at what I do. And I want the team to get better with me. So I think going into the season with time goals or place goals is never really what I do. I'm really looking forward to the season. As Mark said, we have a lot of talented individuals coming in, so my goal would be for us to place well as a team in the coming NCAAs for cross as that's a huge thing for us and then obviously stay healthy and stay motivated throughout indoor and outdoor. In terms of training changing… I mean run more, run faster. It's just kind of keeping consistent I think is a big thing again. With staying healthy, it's going to be really important this year as it is my last year and any little bump in the road might throw that off but pretty much just stay healthy and motivated for the next three seasons.