Orediggers: National Champions

The men’s cross country team won the school’s first ever NCAA Championship.

“It was pretty unreal. With it being the first national championship it was an unbelievable experience for everyone,” head coach Chris Siemers said. “It was unreal how everything took place and came together.”

All-American Grant Colligan echoed similar feelings about winning the championship.

“It was cool and great because it was a new experience for everyone,” Colligan said. “It was surreal. We came in ranked fourth and was under everyone’s radar and we just executed what we wanted to do and it felt good to have everyone come together. “

The team’s success did not just happen overnight, but was rather a full year of hard work.

“We got there with a lot of hard work and buying in from day one. Everybody was doing their part and our team does a great job of working well together every day at practice. We had to battle through a little adversity, but we kept believing in each other and didn’t lose focus on our big goal of winning nationals,” Coach Siemers said. “Experience also helped. Our team, from Marty, Nathanael, Liam, Seth and Grant, all had experience from doing cross country and track last year and that helped as well. Also, the conditions were favorable, it was cold and snowy and when I woke up that morning I thought that would give us an edge.”

The team could have faltered after being defeated by Adams State and not achieving their goal of winning the RMAC, which was just four weeks before Nationals.

“Our goal heading into the RMAC was to win. We ran strong through four men, but had trouble having the fifth guy hang on. We had Seth that held on at the national meet and that helped. Our goal was to win the conference championship and we got beat pretty badly by Adams and that is when we had to focus on the plan and believe in each other and know that in four weeks a lot could change. It was a team effort. It was hard work, what these kids do in the classroom and out here is remarkable.”

It was not just the men’s team that had success this year. The women’s cross country team also made it to Nationals, which was the first time in program history that they made it in back to back years.

“Womens finished 19th at the nationals, and that was our goal, making it to the nationals,” Coach Siemers said. “They came up a little short of their goal at the national meet, but the gains they all made was insurmountable as far as each one improving. They just worked so hard together this year and that is why they could get back to nationals.”

Looking forward, both team’s will not be complacent and will continue to build for the future.

“Hopefully it brings in more recruits. This is our first win and it shows how Chris is making the program better, across the team. It puts weight on our shoulders, and we want to win the RMAC for the first time so we will be motivated over the summer.”

“We are going to have a target on our back. We only lose one out of 28 on the men’s side, so we will have a lot of experience,” Coach Siemers said. “I think that will help, we will have some youngsters that will be hungry and will step up, and that is why we had the success we had this year.”

Above: The men’s cross country holds up the championship trophy after winning at Nationals on Nov. 21. Both men’s and women’s teams accomplished goals that were firsts for the cross country program.

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