RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE CO-MANAGER
With the postponements of fall sports such as football, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer, an increased amount of attention has been paid to Wartburg men’s and women’s cross country, one of the few fall sports remaining.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are undefeated through three contests this season, with the most recent win at this Saturday’s Dan Huston Invitational. With the postponement of other popular fall sports, it may be cross country’s time to shine.
“I do have to say, when it comes to recognition we should or shouldn’t get, I don’t think it matters, that’s never been why we do it,” Liam Conroy, a senior on the men’s cross country team, said. “Whether the entire school is focusing on the football win, or our end, I really don’t think it’s a factor in how we compete.”
The teams’ performance has been the one constant for cross country in an otherwise turbulent season. Following regulations released by the NCAA that classified cross country as a medium-contact risk sport, Wartburg College implemented procedures to reduce exposure to meet the qualifications of a low-contact risk sport.
Among the changes included reducing the amount of teams allowed at competition to three, improved social distancing at meets and at the start of races, and decreased the size of training groups to limit team exposure during practices.
In addition, the cross country schedule was reduced from nine possible regular season meets to four, which saves athletes a year of eligibility per the NCAA’s rule that athletes who compete in less than half of their possible regular season contests do not use eligibility. This will allow all current athletes the opportunity to take a fifth year of eligibility.
While the cross country seasons will hold the conference championships in Pella on Nov. 7, there will be no national championships held this year for cross country among all divisions.
“Really, not having a national meet only affects a few of the top guys on our team that would have qualified,” Joe Freiburger, senior and 2019 All-American, said. “It really shifts the focus to everybody getting better and not just five or ten guys on the team performing at nationals. We get to focus on our 10th guy, 15th guy, and so forth.”