It’s the end of September in Alaska, which means the weather is starting to cool off and time to watch the UAA cross country running team has passed.
The runners are off for a week before they travel to Salem, Ore., to compete at the Willamette Invitational Sept. 29. The Seawolves’ home slates are few and far between, so the runners enjoy it while they can.
The meet against nationally ranked Slippery Rock on Sept. 1 marked the first home meet for the Seawolf runners in two years.
One thing the Seawolf runners are not used to is having the presence of a home crowd cheering for them.
Senior Kaley Strachan was especially pleased to race at Kincaid Park.
“It was nice because we typically race in the Lower 48, and in this race we had a great number of fans including athletic administration, family members, past team members and friends from the community,” Strachan said.
Although the runners competed at home, it didn’t mean the race wasn’t difficult. Kincaid Park is one of the tougher courses the runners compete on, junior Mick Boyle said.
“Our course is a lot harder than any course we race in the states,” Boyle said. “It’s definitely a test to our fitness.”
Being a collegiate athlete in Alaska is different than competing for a college in the lower 48 states. The main and most important difference is the travel time. The flight from Anchorage to Washington can take hours, especially with a head wind. Most UAA teams have an equal amount of home and road competitions, but the cross country running teams compete down south for almost all of their competitions.
“It’s not too bad, really,” Boyle said. “We probably spend more time on a plane than any team in the nation. Once you learn to deal with it, it’s not bad at all.” Although student-athletes usually have to go out of their way in order to get their assignments in on time, there is a benefit of having those long flights.
“We tell our teachers ahead of time so we can get our assignments completed, and it’s great because the airplane guarantees three hours of homework time each way,” Strachan said.
After two meets, head coach Michael Friess has a pretty good idea what to expect from his runners this season.
“I think it’s reflective out of what we see in the training,” Friess said. “I have a hard-working group on the men’s and women’s team, and when you work hard, you’re going to see improvement.”
The Seawolf runners are coming off a good showing at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, where the men placed 3rd out of 20 teams while the women placed 5th out of 15 teams.
The Seawolves do not have any home meets on the schedule this season, but Friess is optimistic that there will be another home meet in the future.
“I like the fact we started in September,” said Friess. “I can see us doing that again in the future.”