The leadership of the men and women’s cross country teams this year will fall upon the shoulders of four experienced runners.
Seniors Ben Snell, Brian Beeson and Jason Bernard will guide the men’s team, while third -year runner Carli Moller will direct the women’s side.
Last season, the men’s team finished fourth at the Cascade Collegiate Conference championship and concluded with a seventh place showing at the regional races. Eight runners from that team have returned.
“We are very excited about our depth this year,” Beeson, the men’s team captain, said. “This is the first time in our program that we have more than five or six strong runners. In addition, we have added some solid freshmen to that depth.”
With the team’s record setting depth, a key component to the team’s success in competition will depend on the leadership maturity of the seniors.
“I think there is a reasonable amount of pressure from the coaches to step up and help lead the team,” said Beeson. “The pressure to perform is always, there but it’s something you’ll always have.”
Developing chemistry among the three leaders will not be an issue. They have been training together since they joined the team as freshmen and are now close friends. Respect for each other is mutual and shared by all three.
“We are all pretty good friends. I don’t even want to think about how many miles we have run together,” Bernard said. “I respect them so much because of their hard work ethics and great attitudes even when the workouts are extremely grueling.”
Beeson’s respect for Bernard was also evident.
“His time management skills are off the charts. He’s married, on ASB, working several nights a week, and also competing as a student athlete,” said Beeson. “You think he would lose focus but he has not; in fact, he has been really focused.”
Slated to finish fifth in the conference behind favored teams such as Eastern Oregon University and Concordia, the team still feels like it can contend with the best.
“We have the talent and the bodies; we just need to put it together come race day,” said Snell.
While the men’s team boasts returning leadership and depth, the women’s team is just the opposite. The women’s team lost several seniors to graduation including two time national qualifier, Danielle Jordan. However, the team does return Moller, who has competed in nationals the past two years.
It will be Moller who will provide the main leadership for a women’s team, which consist of two sophomores and seven freshmen. A team is picked to finish third in the conference.
Stepping into the role of being the senior captain, Moller has learned the responsibilities that come with the position.
“There are a lot of small intricacies involved in planning for practices, meets, team dinners and unity activities,” She said. “Through trial and error I have learned so much, but I have also learned the value of helpful teammates who constantly encourage me.”
An important facet to Moller’s part as team captain is her mentoring of younger teammates. Developing a relationship with her teammates is very important to Moller, whether it is by cooking the team pancakes or by simply listening and talking to them.
“Carli has a very genuine and caring spirit,” said first year runner, Amy Renfro. “She always has a smile and I really admire her respect for others. She always listens to others and takes their views in consideration.”
While remaining focused during senior year can be difficult for college athletes, all four senior leaders are turning toward their faith in Jesus Christ for motivation. Moller pinpoints her inspiration through a quote by Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire:
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
The four seniors can be seen racing on Oct. 4th at Bush Park in the Charles Bowles Invitational.