It’s the time of the year when most of us stay inside bundled up with some coffee and Netflix. But while we’re all lying in bed the cross-country team is gearing up for the most important part of their season.
This Saturday, Nov. 4, both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams will travel to Lock Haven to run in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Region Championships. For most of the team this is the biggest race of the season, and for the seniors, it could be the biggest race of their careers thus far. Seniors Mattison Dunham, Caitlyn Janeda, and Jeremy Parsons will compete with the team at the championship.
Parsons and Dunham have always been strong in cross while Janeda favored the track events. But the trio has still made an impact on their team in their final season. Parsons led the men’s team at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship with a strong third-place finish, while Janeda and Dunham were part of a tight Rock pack in 33rd and 53rd respectively.
For Parsons, this race could be the path to his third straight appearance at the NCAA National meet. After a rough season of injury, he’s ready to go at his final regional meet.
“It’s been a rough season, from having a few injuries to our other top runners and even an injury to myself that put me out for half the season,” Parsons said. “Yet last week’s conference championships went surprisingly well.”
Lock Haven’s 10,000-meter course will feature a similar course to the 8,000-meter course Parsons ran earlier in the season. But the real test Parsons said, is going to be the change from the hilly California University conference championship course to Lock Haven’s track-like flat course.
“This course is going to be a completely different test but as long as I can keep it together mentally and not shut down on myself I am confident that I have a good shot at nationals again this year,” Parsons said.
While Parsons has seen the men’s team struggle with injuries, Dunham has watched the women’s team grow over the years, having a tight pack at the conference championships with just over a minute between the first and fifth runners.
“Each year that I have been on the team we have gotten new freshmen that have really made a difference on our team,” Dunham said. “This year especially, we have a lot of depth and really hard-working girls.”
But while the teams are gearing up for the regional championships, the seniors look back on their years here at the Rock as their time winds down.
“It wasn’t until my sophomore year here that I became more friends with them. But they’ve had such a positive impact on my time here,” Janeda said. “I’ve become a lot closer with especially the girls in my grade, they are just always there when you need someone.”
Dunham talked about how being on the cross-country team has helped her with academics during her time here. According to her, being on the team has helped her be more disciplined when it comes to getting work done.
“I have to dedicate a portion of my day to doing school work, so I can balance athletics and academics,” Dunham said. “I think being involved in athletics has made me a better student because it forces me to get my work done.”
All three talked about how they will miss their teammates and the bond that they made with them here. Parsons and Dunham also talked about how they will miss representing the team and traveling to different schools to compete. Janeda said that she’ll miss the competitive nature of competing at the collegiate level.
Dunham and Janeda both say they will continue to run after their graduation; Janeda plans to take a break before returning to running, and Dunham plans to train for a half marathon. Parsons has no current plans to continue running after school but says his thoughts could change before then.