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Cross country teams open season on new home course

The Indiana Wesleyan University men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin their season Friday, Sept. 12 on their newly-renovated home course.

The IWU Twilight Classic marks the first collegiate meet held on the new and improved course, which began renovations in 2012.

Head Coach John Foss, Cross Country and Track Director of Operations Eric Jackson and Athletic Director Mark DeMichael collaborated to turn the idea of a new course into a reality.

The renovated course has permanent mile and kilometer markers.

The renovated course has permanent mile and kilometer markers.

Jackson said he tried to design the course with spectators in mind.

“I think the biggest thing in cross country is keeping your spectators involved,” said Jackson. “I think they can see them four to five times in a 5K race, which is really good for cross country.”

Coach Foss said there was nothing particularly bad about the old course, but the new course addresses some minor problems. Narrow spots have been widened, and the course no longer crosses Wildcat Drive.

Flags line the new start and finish lines, mile and kilometer markers are posted throughout the course, and more than 100 trees have been planted on the course.

“Coach Jackson has just done an excellent job in building it up and making it look like a high-level course,” said John Wilson (jr). “It looks very professionally done which is really cool.”

The wider course allows IWU to host more teams at junior high, high school and collegiate meets. Jackson said more than 2,000 high school runners competed in last week’s Marion Invitational, nearly double the amount of runners compared to last year’s meet.

The course has remained very flat, which in turn makes it very fast.

“We don’t have so much to work with here in Indiana, so you can’t complain too much,” said Jordan Dekker (so). “I like that it’s fast.”

The women's cross country team practices on the new course Tuesday Sept. 9.

The women’s cross country team practices on the new course Tuesday Sept. 9.

“Speed is good, especially nowadays,” said Coach Foss. “A lot of times national rankings are determined on times.”

Both Coach Foss and Dekker think running the course everyday at practice will give the teams an edge Friday night.

“The more you run you just are familiar with your surroundings,” said Dekker. “It just seems to go faster, which is obviously an advantage.”

“I wish we ran on it more,” said Coach Foss. “We would like to see [the Twilight Classic] get up to 12 or 15 [teams], it’d definitely be an advantage.”

A good showing at the Twilight Classic can give the teams momentum heading into the rest of the season. Coach Foss has set a very clear season goal for both teams: winning the Crossroads League.

“That’ll be very difficult because Taylor University would be the favorite on both sides,” said Coach Foss. “We’d be next in line so upsetting them and winning the league would be a goal.”

Winning the Crossroads League secures an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. Both teams have set the goal of finishing in the Top 15 at Nationals, and Coach Foss thinks they can accomplish it.

“I’m really excited just to see what they can do,” said Coach Foss. “I think the doors are wide open as to what they can accomplish.”

 

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Tedeschi’s Take: For the love of sports

Why do I love sports?

I’ve been thinking about that question this week and realized it’s difficult to answer.

Sports have always been a part of my life. I can’t imagine my life without them. But why? What is it about sports that has drawn me to them since I was a little kid?

It certainly isn’t because I like winning.

I have been a diehard Cleveland sports fan my entire life, so I’m not too familiar with the whole winning concept. (Although I’m hopeful that will change with LeBron coming home!) Interestingly, through the perpetual losing seasons and disappointment, my love for sports has actually grown. `

My love for sports can be summed up by “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” to borrow the famous “Wide World of Sports” tagline. I love the drama and passion of sports. You see it in the hard work of athletes at practices and games, the intensity of a coach’s pregame speech and in the painted faces of football fans on Sunday afternoons. Sports give people something to be passionate about, a place to express their emotions.

I also love how sports bring people together. Absolute strangers become best friends celebrating a team’s victory. Entire nations come together to rally around national teams during events like the Olympics and World Cup. Sports forge a bond between people that few other things can.

So why should you care about all this? Because I want to share my love of sports with you this year.

Through this column and other stories, I hope to tell of the drama and passion of IWU sports, as well as how sports are bringing people together on this campus and elsewhere.

I am looking forward to working as the sports editor for The Sojourn this year, and hope to interact with you any way I can.

Feel free to contact me through email or Twitter (@tim_tedeschi), and be sure to check back every two weeks for another edition of Tedeschi’s Take.

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New coach, same goals for women’s tennis team

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First year Head Coach Eddy Shigley talks with players during the team’s 9 – 0 win against Bethel Sept. 2. Photo by Lauren Dafoe.

If coaching changes are supposed to be difficult, don’t tell the Indiana Wesleyan University women’s tennis team.

Eddy Shigley took over the program in April when Terry Porter retired after 23 seasons as head coach, and the change has been smooth.

“We’re excited about continuing the brilliant legacy that he’s left,” Shigley said. He added that Porter is still very much involved in the program behind the scenes, whether through ordering equipment or scheduling matches.

Rachel Bottorff (so) said it has been a positive transition from Coach Porter to Coach Shigley.

“I loved Coach Porter, he was really awesome, but Coach Shigley has been really cool too,” said Bottorff. “He’s just had a lot of good insight for us and has a plan for us to keep improving during the season.”

Shigley is a busy man. He added the position of women’s tennis head coach to an already lengthy list of titles and responsibilities, including associate professor of religion, director of the Kern Ministry Program and president of the Doulos Leadership Group. He said he has enjoyed the difficulties coaching brings amidst his busy schedule.

Rachel Bottorff (so) awaits the serve during her match against Bethel Sept. 2.

Rachel Bottorff (so) awaits the serve during her match against Bethel Sept. 2. Photo by Lauren Dafoe.

“It’s a challenge, however [the players] are a blessing to work with,” Shigley said. “They don’t drain you of energy; they give you energy because they’re so joyful.”

Coach Shigley and the team found themselves in unfamiliar territory early this season. For the first time since 1995, the team lost a fall match. The team had won 241 consecutive matches before losing 4-5 to Marian Aug. 26.

“It was a disappointment, not going to lie,” said Bottorff.

The end of such an impressive streak, combined with having a new coach, could ruin an entire season for some teams, but not this team.

“I think they’ve responded great,” said Shigley. “There were some tears that first night and the next day, but after that they really rebounded and they’ve done a great job.”

Bottorff said, “We’re sad about it, but I think it’s going to help us to work harder and push harder to get better.”

According to Shigley, a perfect season was never one of the team’s goals. Glorifying God, academic excellence and preparation for national tournaments in the spring are all more important to the team.

Shigley did mention a certain streak at NAIA Nationals that he would like to see come to an end. “We’ve never won a second round match,” said Shigley. “You can’t win an NAIA National title unless you win that second round match.  So we want to get over that hump.” He also said the team wants to win another NCCAA title.

Katie Wilson (jr) and Bottorff lead a veteran team with lots of match experience. “I just want to like try to win as much as I can, you know, and just help the team succeed,” said Bottorff. “I just want to keep improving and win.”

“I’m just excited about this season, excited about working with this group of girls,” said Shigley. “They’re awesome. They love Jesus and it’s just a blessing to be here at IWU and be the head coach.”

 

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Spring sports teams adapt to long winter

Indiana Wesleyan University sports teams have battled an extra opponent this spring: the ever-changing weather.

Emily Sell (sr) fields a ball at her shortstop position. The Wildcats got in a doubleheader versus Marian March 28 before unfavorable weather cancelled the following day's games.

Emily Sell (sr) fields a ball at her shortstop position. The Wildcats got in a doubleheader versus Marian March 28 before unfavorable weather cancelled the following day’s games.

Athletic Director Mark DeMichael said more than half of the scheduled spring sporting events so far have been rescheduled or cancelled due to the weather. DeMichael blamed the long winter and heavy snowfall for setting teams back to start the season.

“When the snow goes away, that doesn’t mean the field is ready,” DeMichael said. “I’ve been here 17 years, and this is easily the worst winter we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

According to DeMichael, IWU coaches collaborate with opponent’s coaches to decide whether an event will be played, rescheduled or cancelled. Ultimately, the home team’s coach makes a judgment call about the game. After a coach makes the decision to cancel, the teams have to communicate with their athletic directors, groundskeepers, transportation and game officials to decide on a date to make up the event, if possible.

“It’s a pain; it’s just not a fun process,” said DeMichael.

Baseball head coach Chad Newhard said rescheduling isn’t ideal, but the team is used to the process.

“We’ve played three games on the regularly scheduled time at the facility that they were supposed to be at, but that’s typical stuff,” Newhard said April 9. “Our guys do a really good job of handling it and they understand it’s part of [the game].”

Members of the baseball team practice in Troyer Fieldhouse. The long winter has greatly affected the baseball team's ability to practice outside.

Members of the baseball team practice in Troyer Fieldhouse. The long winter has affected the team’s ability to practice outside.

Newhard said low temperatures early in the baseball season caused the most cancellations,

“We’ve had to move some games because of rain,” Newhard said. “But usually temperature, especially in March, is kind of the biggest deal if we can play or not.”

The baseball team has been fortunate to make up some games at a turf facility in Westfield, Ind.

“We’ve gotten fortunate to have a couple other facilities open up,” Newhard said, “and we’ve been able to play there so it’s really helped us out.”

The men’s golf team has not been so lucky. The team had to cancel its only home match of the season, the IWU Spring Invitational, and fought through lightning, rain and hailstorms to finish the NAIA Brickyard Classic last week. The IWU Spring Invitational was supposed to be Coach Austin Conroy’s first match as head coach of the men’s golf team. Conroy said it’s nearly impossible to reschedule golf matches.

“In the spring season there’s not really much you can do to move it,” Conroy said. “It’s tough and it’s hard as a coach, honestly, not to get frustrated.”

Coach Conroy said he tries to focus on how players can grow through the adversity of severe weather conditions.

Conroy said, “If they’re comfortable with [the weather] and just realize that and stick through it mentally, that’s kind of the most important thing.”

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