MSU’s Men’s Cross Country team is fueled by self-motivation. Each day, this group of 16 men runs more miles than most of us can fathom running in a week. Shirts are soaked with sweat, feet crush blades of grass, and painful ankle blisters develop during ten-mile “jogs” and quarter-mile sprints. These men run hard to increase their endurance for competition in weekend races with schools across the country.
[runner] Led by first year coach Walt Drenth, formerly of Arizona State University, the men run for their own satisfaction and the pride of being part of such a tightly knit team—not for their small audience of family members and a few friends. “Nobody comes to see me run,” English freshman Chris Baker said. “The meets have lots of team, but not a lot of spectators.” Meets are open to the public.
The collegiate cross country season lasts from August until late November, concluding with the NCAA Championships in Indiana. “I enjoy the competition,” history junior Matt Bartlebaugh said. “Cross country lets me try to better myself.”
Organized practice is every day, sometimes more than once, with pre-season training before the season even begins. “Self-satisfaction” is often the key motivator, according to Adam Sprangel, a mathematics freshman. “I don’t know why I run competitively,” Sprangel said. Baker agreed, referring to running as “demoralizing.”
Coach Drenth creates a weekly workout program so the team knows what to expect during practice. “The guys really seem to like him,” team trainer Jodi Schneider said. Schneider accompanies the team to meets and practices when she can and helps ease their aching muscles after running.
Drenth is aware of each runner’s capabilities, and the small team enables him to individually help the runners in preparation for the eight-kilometer (4.7912 mile) races. Rather than directing general drills for the whole team, he often caters to each runner’s needs. “I don’t meet any resistance,” Drenth said. “If I met resistance, [those men] would not be on this team.”
The team is bound by a desire to run their hardest every day and bonds through experiencing such a brutal sport together. Being such a small group, warming up and extensive stretching during and after practice help to make their bonds stronger, and they are encouraged by support within the team rather than outside of it.
The men are looking forward to a tough season, filled with improvements within their “family-like” team. After a 12th place finish out of 24 teams at the Notre Dame Invitational on October 1st, the men are gearing up for the Pre-NCAA Invitational at Indiana State University on Saturday, October 16th, led by the team’s top runners Senior Steve Sherer and freshman Stephan Shay.
Coach Drenth is confident in their progress. “I want them to become more competitive,” Drenth said. “Right now we are going through some growing pains, but these boys do want to be good.”

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