When Head Cross-Country Coach Ted Castaneda talks about the month of October, his eyes light up. Castaneda, a 23-year veteran coach, has a very special place on his season calendar for the month of October. October is ‘hammer time’. ‘Hammer time,’ according to Castaneda, is the time of year when runners are posting their best times of the year and witnessing how far their training has brought them.
“Since the start of the school year, we’ve been working on their cardiovascular systems and toughening up their bodies,” explained Coach Castaneda. “But when October comes and we go to a lot of low altitude meets, we start to see times really drop.”
The Tigers have the distinct advantage of training at 6,035 feet in the thin Rocky Mountain air. “We are the only Division III program that trains at altitude. Mentally and physically, that is a huge advantage for us,” explained Castaneda.
The Tigers were most recently in action on Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Oklahoma Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla. Both the men’s and women’s squads had promising showings. Castaneda said, “Going into the meet, we were thinking that if we could finish anywhere better than seventh, that would be very encouraging.”
The women’s and men’s teams both exceeded expectation, with the women taking home third overall and the men’s team finishing sixth in their respective division. The Colorado College squad competed in the College Division, which was comprised of “some local community colleges, smaller programs, and some Division II schools,” according to Castaneda.
Colorado College was the only Division III program present. The Tigers were competing against 16 other teams in the College Division.
Senior Graham Frank, who led the men’s team at the meet with a time of 26:43, said, “It was our first low-altitude meet, so that was a big advantage.” He added, “placing sixth is pretty promising seeing as we didn’t have Nick Hall in the mix.”
Nick Hall is quite an iconic name within the CC running program. Hall, a senior, is a two-time SCAC champion and as has been voted the team’s Most Valuable Runner for the past two years. Hall sat out the meet in order to rest his body after two consecutive weekends of racing.
Another leader on the team is senior Sam English, who had not run cross-country for CC before this year, but has had a strong presence thus far. “We’ve had to bring him along gradually,” said Castaneda. “But, he’s already ahead of where we wanted him to be. We’ve been pointing him towards October, so I’m sure we’ll see some good things from him.” English finished 53rd overall at the jamboree with a time of 28:32.
The women’s squad was led by sophomore Leah Wessler. Wessler finished fifth overall at the meet out of the field of 112 runners. Castaneda was pleased with the performance: “That’s the highest individual finish I can remember us having at that meet, and that’s also the best team finish we’ve had.”
One major strength that the women’s team will have going forward is their depth and wealth of talent at the top of their roster. “We’ve had three or four girls lead the team this year, it’s incredible. The depth for the women up front is very, very good,” said Castaneda. Along with Wessler, the team was bolstered in Oklahoma by senior Rebecca Lavietes and sophomore Allie Crimmins.
As far as what’s next for the Tigers, they will be heading to California to compete in the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 4. The meet will allow the team to compete against their region for the first time this year. Before being able to gun down their regional competition at NCAA III West Regionals in November, the team will have to focus on their conference opponents, namely, Trinity University.
At the SCAC championships last year, both the men’s and women’s teams finished in second place behind Trinity. The memories of that second place finish will fuel the Tigers as they approach the culmination of their season. “Both teams are looking forward to going after Trinity, which is our number one rival in the conference,” said Castaneda. “The guys lost by one point last year, and we will not have that happen this year.”
The pieces of the puzzle are in place for the Tigers, but Castaneda cited one more essential piece that is necessary in creating successful runners: “Ultimately you gotta want it. We can provide you with the tools, but ultimately it is up to the team as to how far they want to go. Every meet we go to from now on, we’re very excited for, and we’re looking for huge improvements.”