Western Courier

For cross country, improvement slow and steady

By Tom Loftus

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David Beauchem has modest goals for his 2011 Western Illinois men’s and women’s cross country teams – but that doesn’t mean he also doesn’t have high expectations.

With the Leatherneck men coming off a seventh-place finish at last year’s Summit League Championships, and the Leatherneck women placing ninth out of 10 conference teams, the second-year coach knows there is much room for improvement – but he doesn’t expect a 180-degree turnaround in one season.

“Last year, (our teams) had years and years of experience,” Beauchem said. “So it’s going to be a building process in the first three weeks of the season.

“I think teams are both actually improved over last year,” he added. “It’s just going to take us to the middle of October to show that, and then hope that improvement moves us up in the Summit League standings.

Chelsea Lynes, a sophomore from Woodstock, Ontario, is expected to start the season as the top competitor for the Leatherneck women’s team.

Michael Castel, a sophomore from Moline, Ill., and Jeff Woolridge, a junior from St. Louis, Mo., are the top returning runners for the men’s team.

Western’s men’s and women’s teams open their season on Friday, Sept. 2 by hosting the Western Early Bird Invitational, beginning at 5 p.m. at Spring Lake Park in Macomb.

For freshmen like Mark Holt (Lyons Township High), Trevor Holm (Kaneland High), Kristen Bonsor (Glenbrook North High) and Lydia Smith (Canton High), the first competitions of the season could provide a glimpse of their future potential successes – or struggles – as collegiate runners.

“For the guys, you’re going from racing three miles (in high school) to racing five miles,” Beauchem said. “On the women’s side, you’re going from racing three miles to basically racing four miles. The distance is different enough that there’s not a straight correlation (of high school success necessarily translating to college success).

The Leathernecks coach continued, “That’s the first adjustment. So, for somebody coming out of high school, that’s the question: How much better are they going to get? The adjustment is pretty significant.

“In a sport where strength and endurance are such a key factor… it’s just so difficult for a freshman to come in and be successful, especially for a fall sport. They’re going to be adjusting to school, classes and the dorms in season.

“The big question is how soon will they make the adjustment and become competitive.”

Beauchem said that, in addition to looking at high school runners’ track records (literally), he also tries to find students for whom Western Illinois University itself will be a great fit.

“Law enforcement and criminal justice is a huge, huge part of our recruiting,” Beauchem said. “You’ve got to recruit to the strength of the university.”

Western will also travel to events at Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Notre Dame and Bradley this fall, before competing at the Summit League Championships in Tulsa, Okla. (hosted by Oral Roberts) on Oct. 29.

“We’re going to be better than we were last year,” Beauchem said. “I just hope it shows in the final conference standings. One or two spots higher is what I think we’ll have a shot at moving up to.”

Among the other runners who will be competing for the Leatherneck men’s team this fall are junior Chase Marlow (from Roseville, Ill.), sophomore Jared Summers (Effingham, Ill.) and sophomore Zach Wiedeman (Canton, Ill.).

The women’s team will also feature sophomores Mackenzie Gray (Blue Grass, Iowa) and Alex Szymanski (Channahon, Ill.), and juniors Alycia Thurston (Davenport, Iowa) and Alexa Williams (Gurnee, Ill.)


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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
For cross country, improvement slow and steady