XC Nationals

While Joy Shufeldt’s and Aaron Jenkins’s 76th and 217th place finishes respectively on Saturday at the NCAA Divison III championship meet in Oshkosh, Wis. could be called disappointing, the accomplishment of competing at that level should not be demeaned.  Coach Toby Schwarz acknowledges that. “It’s always tough to end on a disappointing note, but then again, when you’re finishing at nationals you can’t do anything better than that,” Schwarz said.

Jenkins, a senior, finished his Whitworth cross country career as a decorated athlete. He qualified for nationals on an at-large bid after finishing 14th at the NCAA Division III West Region meet last weekend. He has been a two-year captain of the men’s cross country team and a lead runner for the Pirates all four years.  Jenkins has received first team all-Northwest Conference three out of his four years, receiving second team honors once.

“The race didn’t go very well for me,” Jenkins said in reference to Saturday’s meet. “But I received more support than I deserve from my parents, coaches, and teammates.”

Schwarz was complimentary of Jenkins contributions to Whitworth Cross Country.

“He’ll be a hard person to replace for a couple of reasons,” Schwarz said. “Obviously for his athleticism and then his commitment and dedication to the team.”

Though cross country is over for Jenkins, running for Whitworth is not. At this point, Jenkins’s goal is to go to nationals in the 10k for outdoor track.

Shufeldt went into the weekend with the goal of being an all-American for the second time, but came up short.

“Joy did great,” Schwarz said. “You know, she put herself in position to be an All-American and she was in that position with 1000 meters to go.”

In the final mile Shufeldt said she lost confidence, watching people passing her consistently. Though frustrated about not achieving her goal, she had an optimistic attitude about her experience at nationals.

“It definitely didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, but it was still a good learning experience,” Shufeldt said. “I’m glad I was able to go and I’m really glad I have one more year.

Schwarz mentioned the paradigm of Shufeldt’s freshman year as a hard standard to achieve again. She received both all-NWC and all-American honors in the 2009 season and has yet to accomplish that over. Schwarz and Shufeldt both are upbeat about Shufeldt’s potential for next year.  She will also participate in track season this spring.

“She started cross country [this season] basically where she was freshman year,” Schwarz said. “When she starts up next year for cross country she’s basically going to carry the momentum.”

With Saturday’s meet in hindsight, Shufeldt said mental toughness would be a focus for her this off-season.

“Yesterday was just a humbling experience for me and a good reality check that not everything is going to go exactly as a I planned, but I need to learn from it and move on,” Shufeldt said.

Also regarding Saturday as a thing of the past, Schwarz is still proud of what these two runners have accomplished.

“It’s better to finish disappointing at nationals than at conference,” Schwarz said.  “Aaron and Joy didn’t have the season they were looking forward to but still had a successful season.”

 

By Sena Hughes

XC Regionals

Saturday’s Regional meets in Claremont, Calif. didn’t have quite the outcome for which the Whitworth Cross Country teams were hoping. The men’s team placed an overall sixth and the women 11th. Junior forerunner Joy Shufeldt, however, came in fifth overall, receiving an automatic invitation to the national competition next weekend. Circumstances weren’t ideal for the Pirates on Saturday. Key runners for the men, Senior Aaron Jenkins and Junior Trevor Berrian, were both battling illness.  Likewise, Shufeldt said several female runners were also sick. Head coach Toby Schwarz also mentioned though travel isn’t an excuse, it definitely affected how the team competed.

Jenkins crossed the finish line first for Whitworth but 14th overall. He received an at-large bid to compete at nationals so will join Shufeldt in representing Whitworth next weekend in Oshkosh, Wis.

“Hopefully he’ll be able to finish off his senior year and college running career well,” Schwarz said of Jenkins.

Schwarz was disappointed by the team performances, but was complimentary of Shufeldt’s race and qualification for NCAA’s.

“It’s exciting that she’s qualified,” Schwarz said.  “She deserves to go. [She’s] getting better and better every week.”

Though Shufeldt said she was pleased with her performance Saturday, she feels she can still improve.

“I feel I might’ve set my goals a little too low,” Shufeldt said. “Toby thinks I could have placed higher and I probably could have. But I’m excited to go to nationals.”

Shufeldt received All-American honors in 2009 as a freshman, but claimed she did not race as well at nationals last year. Both she and Schwarz said they are hoping for her to again receive that designation this year.

“It sets the bar high but it’s not unrealistic,” Shufeldt said.

Now with the team part of the season complete, Shufeldt, the key leader of the women’s squad all year, said she is proud of her teammates and what they accomplished this year.

“I’m really proud of the progress and I’m really proud of the girls even though we didn’t do maybe quite as well as we hoped,” Shufeldt said. “I’m excited for the chance for the girls to rest a little bit and get 100% healthy and start training hard again.”

In addition to the women gaining experience, Schwarz also expressed his pride in the men’s team for winning conference this season.

“It was a good season,” Schwarz said. “Men winning conference? Can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Next year the men will return ten runners, including Barrien and standout freshman Eli Deitz, and the senior-less women will return every runner for the 2012 season.  But for now, Schwarz expressed the team’s relief in just being back home.  He knows they will draw from the lessons from this season.

“I think every individual has different lessons that they’re going to learn,” Schwarz said. “That’s part of competing, when you have successes you don’t learn a lot, but when there’s failure you [do].”

 

Story By Sena Hughes

XC Conference

The Whitworth cross country team opened the championship portion of its season Saturday Oct. 29 as the men claimed the Northwest Conference title for a second consecutive year and the women placed sixth out of the nine teams competing. “[The men] just did awesome,” head coach Toby Schwarz said. “It was the best-case scenario.”

Junior Trevor Berrian was the first to cross the finish line for the Pirate men, finishing third overall. Finishing just behind him were senior teammates Aaron Jenkins and Tyler Dudley, who placed an overall fifth and seventh respectively. All three runners were named to the first team All-NWC.

“I thought it was a really good meet, but it definitely wasn’t my peak performance,” Jenkins said. “I think it was like that for most of the guys honestly.”

The men came in as the underdogs to a competitive Willamette University team. Though ranked second, the Pirates ignored outside critique and ran to win.

“We talked about what it took to win and the guys executed,” Schwarz said.

Whitworth finished with a total score of 45, beating rival Willamette by a four-point spread--one more point than last year’s victory.  Jenkins credited senior Mark Davis and freshman Eli Deitz, the fourth and fifth runners, for making the difference in Saturday’s meet. The men said they are braced for a hungry Willamette team at regionals next weekend.

“At regionals they’re going to give us a run for our money again,” Jenkins said.

Winning conference was a primary goal for the team all year. They saw their hard work and effort this season pay off Saturday.

“We’ve had really good training this year,” Berrian said. “We’ve been running really well in practice and people aren’t getting worn out.”

The 2011 conference championship is the third in four years for the men. Still, their eyes are set on a higher prize.  Now that younger runners, like Deitz, understand the caliber of competition, the team is excited for what is yet to come.

“For Trevor, Tyler, Mark and me, conference is just something we want to win,” Jenkins said. “But it plays a big role for the freshmen because now they’ve been there and they know they can win.”

Though excited about Saturday’s success, the Pirates said they want to make sure they are prepared both mentally and physically for next weekend’s challenge at regionals.

“I’m not thinking about conference now,” Berrian said. “I don’t want to go in being too cocky and over-confident.”

On the women’s side, junior Joy Shufeldt finished second overall for the second year in a row.

“I knew what I wanted to accomplish and I trusted that Toby had trained me in such a way that I could accomplish that,” Shufeldt said.

Shufeldt received All-NWC honors for the third consecutive year.

Schwarz called the women’s sixth place finish disappointing. With such a young and inexperienced team this year, it made conference competition daunting.

“The freshmen were overwhelmed,” Schwarz said. “We didn’t do what we were hoping to do, but we got a lot of experience.”

As has been the story all season, the women’s team struggled with injuries and illness Saturday. Most notably, freshman Christina Anderson, who has been a key runner for the Pirates all year, wasn’t 100 percent healthy.

Like the men, it was a main goal of the women to win conference. At this point, they said they are just hoping to draw from the experience.

“Even though we didn’t meet our goals, I’m still proud of the girls and I’m excited about the opportunity for all of us to get to race at regionals,” Shufeldt said. “I just hope that all the girls can get passed some nerves and anxiousness, and compete hard and race well [at regionals].”

Schwarz and Shufeldt both said they are encouraged by the fact that the women’s team won’t be losing any runners after this year. They said they are thankful for the experience they’ve been given this year and hope to improve certainly next season, and certainly next weekend at regionals.

“Often times we can learn more from failure than success, so hopefully they learned a lot,” Schwarz said.

Though nobody complained about the 50-degree day the Pirates had on Saturday in Brooks, Ore., nobody is complaining about heading to Southern California for regionals, either.

“I’m looking forward to the warm weather,” Berrian said with a smile.

Rain or shine, both Pirates squads know they have unfinished business and are motivated to work hard over the next week in preparation for regionals.

“This year we’re going to be more prepared for a battle at regionals,” Berrian said. “We’re going to have to race really hard.”

 

By Sena Hughes

Cross country preservers through obstacles

The Whitworth cross country team has a reputation of success. The men have been crowned Northwest Conference champions two out of the last three seasons. The women have most recently received that honor in 2009. Both teams have made consistent appearances as national competitors. “We’re a great team,” head coach Toby Schwarz said. “We have a lot of promise.”

The 2011 season hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Pirate cross country runners. Health has been a battle, especially on the women’s side. Additionally, the women have a senior-less squad, running with very little collegiate experience.

“We’re an extremely young team,” junior frontrunner Joy Shufeldt said. “We have lots of freshmen and not a whole lot of experience racing at this level.”

There have been additional challenges for the women’s team. Schwarz said he would like to see the back pack of runners stay closer to the front, and for everyone to continue to run faster and improve their times.

To top it all off, the weather has not let these runners off the hook.

“[I was surprised at] how hot it would be this fall,” Schwarz said.

Although the team has had its battles, morale is still high.

“Though they train hard, this is a team that knows how to have fun, whether that be singing during warm-ups or busting a move at a team dance party,” said Schwarz

The time the team spends hanging out outside of practice shows in their work ethic and team unity.

“We’ve bonded well as a team, which helps motivate us to work hard because we want to do well for each other,” Shufeldt said.

On Saturday the Pirates traveled to Salem, Ore., to run in the Willamette Invitational Meet. The Whitworth women finished 12th out of 16 teams. It was a good test for the team to match up against conference opponents.

“Today was a good indication of where we’re at,” Shufeldt said. “I’m really excited to see how we progress in the next few weeks.”

Shufeldt led the team as she has consistently done. Freshman Christina Anderson also continued to race well. The women finished sixth against conference teams. Schwarz said Saturday’s meet was disappointing for the women.

“We’ve got some work to do there,” Schwarz said.

Hard work and determination are key for the women at this point. Though talented, the team is young, so confidence is essential.

“They need to believe they can do it,” Schwarz said. “They’re young and inexperienced so believing is a big thing.”

The meet looked different from the men’s side. Though still improving, the men finished a solid seventh out of 15 teams on Saturday. Berrian led the men, followed by senior Aaron Jenkins. Junior Tim Hill and freshman Eli Deitz also ran strong races. Finishing second in the conference, Willamette University was the only NWC team that outran the Pirates.

“It’s not bad, but we like to beat Willamette,” Schwarz said.

With the conference meet and a chance to earn more NWC titles just around the corner, Schwarz and the teams know they need to work hard in order to achieve their goals. Improvement goes beyond just the physical part of running.

“All of us need to work on the mental aspect of training and racing,” Shufeldt said. “We’re all physically capable, but we just need to work on getting our minds in a place where we don’t impose limitations on ourselves.”

It’s a tough spot of the season for any team. With both school and running in full gear, fatigue can set in.

“[We need to] be able to pick each other up in these tough times and [stay] positive, “Barrien said.

Schwarz praised the level of talent on both squads.

“It’s fun working with a talented, hardworking team,” Schwarz noted.

So much of competition now depends on believing in the time put into training, the teams’ unity and the desire to win.

“I think we’ll do the unexpected,” Shufeldt said. “If we train hard these next few weeks, trust in God and trust in each other, then conference will be amazing.”

Schwarz believes with hard work in practice they will be OK.

“We’re progressing,” Schwarz said. “Just a little slower than we wanted.”

From here, Whitworth has just one more meet before heading back to Oregon at the end of the month for the conference competition.

“Hopefully we can get better over the next four weeks,” Schwarz said.

 

By Sena Hughes

Photo By Jordan Beauchamp