Underclassmen lead men’s XC team at MIAC Championships

By Patrick Murphy

Short shorts and suffering. Both are synonymous with cross country. The Macalester men’s cross country team, better known as The Mac Pack, has mastered both. The Mac Pack is an eclectic collection of characters that can be seen running around campus (and far beyond) wearing as few clothes as possible. The Mac Pack began nine years ago when coach Matt Haugen took over the reigns of the Macalester men’s cross country program. “It’s a privileged pack to be a part of,” Haugen said. “You wear The Mac Pack t-shirt proudly because you can’t buy it, you have to earn it.” Coming off of its most trying season in years, The Mac Pack has begun to reemerge this season, led by an infusion of young talent. This talent was on full display at last Saturday’s MIAC Championships at Como Park in St. Paul. Leading the way for the boys in orange was Joe Giamberdino ’15, who ran to an impressive 13th-place all-conference finish. Giamberdino was the first Mac frosh to earn all-conference honors in 19 years. “It was a thrilling performance to watch,” Haugen said. “He was flowing along with some very good runners and was alert enough to pick it up at the end to earn all-conference.” Paced by team captain Carl Biggers ’12, Giamberdino was well positioned in the chase pack after completing the first mile in 5:17. As Biggers dropped back, Giamberdino hung on to the group. “Our first time up the hill, I realized this race was going to be a battle,” Giamberdino said. “My calves and quads were really burning, but I used the downhills to my advantage, staying with the front guys. As the race wore on, I really started to hurt. My breathing became unsteady, and I found myself struggling to stay with the chase pack. With about 400 meters to go, coach relayed to me that I was in position for all-conference, and in an all-out sprint I managed to outkick two runners in the last 150 meters. I almost threw up crossing the line.” After a rough showing two weeks before, Giamberdino came through with his best race as a member of The Mac Pack. “It was the biggest two-week improvement I’ve ever seen,” Haugen said. “He won the war of attrition out there.” The team’s second, third, fourth, and fifth runners all finished within 16 seconds of each other. Running strategically as a pack, Biggers, Ben Mahew ’14, Dan Voss ’14, and Mike Waltman ’15 rounded out The Mac Pack’s top five runners. Haugen praised the team’s, “intangible will and desire to stay together to bring each other up.” Biggers ran his best race of the year, Mahew ran a 36-second personal best, and Voss ran a 33-second personal best. A personal best of any kind is impressive at conference, but the biggest time drop of all belonged to Dylan “The Ironman” Saul ’15, who shaved 10 minutes and 19 seconds off of his previous best time. As a team, the Scots placed ninth out of the 11 MIAC teams. However, six of the team’s top seven runners are underclassmen. To say the future is bright for The Mac Pack is an understatement. As rival teams will lose the majority of their top runners to graduation this year and next, The Mac Pack will only continue to strengthen as a unit. Much of the team’s past and future success can be attributed to Coach Haugen, who is renowned as a top coach, as well as an extremely successful runner in his own right. “He is the most talented coach I know,” Giamberdino said. “Coach really cares about his runners, and it has been an honor to run under him. I can’t imagine The Mac Pack without Coach in the equation.” Next weekend, The Mac Pack will travel to Waverly, Iowa, for the NCAA Regional meet on Saturday, November 12. “I think the team is really looking for redemption against Carleton and St. Mary’s,” Giamberdino said. “We really hoped to take them down during the conference meet, and I think we are more than capable of doing so at this last meet.” Auburn Jimenez ’14, who is also the kicker on the football team, will rejoin The Mac Pack for the regional meet and figures to factor into the team’s top five runners. “We would love to see some fans come out and support us,” Giamberdino said. “Cross country really is a fun spectator sport, people just don’t give it a chance! This is the beginning of a new era of The Mac Pack– we are looking as strong as ever. Waverly may be a bit of a hike from here, but we won’t disappoint in this last meet of the season.”