It has been a while since Northwest cross country last ran a course in competition. The drought ends Oct. 19 at the ESU Homecoming Invite. For coach Nick Gibson, the time off from competition has been spent balancing his responsibilities.
Gibson has the task of coaching all the distance athletes for not only the cross country team but for track and field as well. While the concept of the events is similar, a distance race, the techniques and differences between a course and a track makes training for each sport unique.
The athletes who run cross country do not have to be a specialized distance runner when it comes to track and field. Runners such as sophomore Collin Welch compete in a combination of events from the 400-meter dash all the way up to the 5,000-meter run.
One aspect that helps this transition is Gibson and the runners' love and excitement for the sport.
“It is taxing, but I love what I am doing,” Gibson said. “It doesn’t change anything, I still like going to work every day and I really enjoy working with the athletes. It is tiring, but you just don’t think about it because you are just so used to it.”
For the freshmen on the team, like Caroline Ross, the transition and balance of having just a few weeks to prepare for track and field, compared to months in high school, can be a challenge. Ross has been a strong runner for the women’s team early on, helping lead the Bearcats and earning a MIAA co-runner of the week.
Ross has seen the transition between the cross country and track and field team start to take place very early on this season.
“Gibson and (track and field coach Brandon) Masters have really worked hard at making the whole boys and girls cross country and track teams just one big team and that is beneficial to our success,” Ross said.
Right in the middle of a long stretch of training, Gibson and the team have had time to work on both cross country workouts and track workouts. One of the biggest changes between the two seasons for the athletes is switching from the course outdoors to the track at a set distance indoors.
This is something Gibson said the athletes should have the easiest time adjusting to at the end of cross country.
“Usually they translate a little bit better, because courses vary in terrain and even distances depending on how they cut the course,” Gibson said. “In track, we know specifically its a flat 400 for outdoors, 200-300 for indoors, so we know consistently what the terrain is.”
As for the rest of the cross country season, the team has one meet scheduled before they take on the MIAA conference meet. The ESU Homecoming Invite will give the team a chance to run on the same course conference will be held on, one week after.
The mentality heading into the final stretch of the season is to be as competitive as they can be in each meet.
“For me, the biggest thing is getting the kids in positions where they are going to be successful,” Gibson said. “A lot of them didn’t score or place at conference, so this year I want them to progress where they are scoring at the conference.”