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.
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.”
“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.”