Similar to all other athletics at Wilkes, the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with the fluidity of the cross country team. However, the team was able to compete once again in the 2021 season, and has adapted to the training and longer miles of collegiate running.
Before 2021, both cross country teams last ran competitive meets throughout Nov. 2019. Nov. 2 was the MAC Championship, followed by the ECAC Championship on Nov. 9 and the NCAA Mid East Regional Championship on Nov. 16th.
From that point from nearly two years ago, the running Colonels did not see a competitive meet until Sept. 3 of this year, when they participated in the Misericordia Invitational 4K.
“It was difficult to get back in the swing of things,” said head coach Nick Wadas. “We had a long layoff from competition. In addition, with the absence of a track and field program, our cross country athletes had very limited competition. It has definitely impacted our team.”
After their first meet, the Colonels next ran on Sept. 18,once again at Misericordi ,with the 6k Cougar Classic, followed by the Dickinson Long-Short Invitational on Sept. 25. This meet was the DeSales Invitational on Oct. 9, where Wadas saw his team adjust to the longer distances of collegiate cross country.
“My favorite meet so far was the DeSales Invitational for various reasons,” said Barlow. “I ran my goal for the 6k, and it was my first 6k of the season. The highs of this meet include getting top 30 overall, obtaining my goal time of getting a 24-minute 6k and making school history as the 14th fastest women’s 6k time.”
Not only is this season an adjustment for first-year students, but it is also a new challenge for sophomore runners. Because of cancelled competition last year, 2021 is the first time that both first-years and sophomores have represented Wilkes and raced longer distances, compared to their meets during their high school athletic careers.
“Having a real season was challenging, especially when the mileage was tough from starting out,” said Dustin Edsall, sophomore electrical engineering student. “This was my first college athletic season for cross country. It was very different from running in high school due to the increased mileage.”
After the DeSales Invitational, the Colonels competed at the Inter-Regional Border Battle on Oct. 16, followed by the LVC Last Chance Run Invitational on Oct. 22.
“The DeSales invite was a good meet,” said Wadas. “I saw a lot of good racing. We had a slow start in the race, but it is a learning curve. Most of our team never ran a 6k or 8k and they need to learn that balance between going out hard enough and running smart.”
They next compete at the Middle Atlantic Conference Championships at DeSales University on Oct. 30. The runners are looking to train to be able to get a shot at running at the NCAA Regionals.
“For the MAC Championship meet, I’m putting in my miles for training and trying to run my best during our workouts,” said Edsall. “I’m also staying hydrated and mentally preparing to race at DeSales; I’m ready to have another PR.”
Wadas hopes to see his runners compete with confidence at MACs in order to potentially put them in a spot to run at he NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on Nov. 13 at Dickinson College.
This will be the Colonels last meet of the season, finishing a challenging yet successful year after not competing for 657 days.
“In terms of MAC: believe in the training and have a positive mindset,” said Wadas. “They need to control what they can control. Eat well, hydrate properly, sleep well enough, bring a positive mindset and be persistent.”