Weapons return at the right time for men’s cross country

The+Men%E2%80%99s+Cross+Country+team+huddles+before+competing+in+the+MIAC+Championships+at+Como+Park+in+Saint+Paul.+The+team+finished+sixth+out+of+11+in+the+conference.+Photo+courtesy+of+Steve+Gilfix.

The Men’s Cross Country team huddles before competing in the MIAC Championships at Como Park in Saint Paul. The team finished sixth out of 11 in the conference. Photo courtesy of Steve Gilfix.

The Men’s Cross Country team huddles before competing in the MIAC Championships at Como Park in Saint Paul. The team finished sixth out of 11 in the conference. Photo courtesy of Steve Gilfix.

The Men’s Cross Country team huddles before competing in the MIAC Championships at Como Park in Saint Paul. The team finished sixth out of 11 in the conference. Photo courtesy of Steve Gilfix.

Led by a balanced attack of three juniors, two seniors, one sophomore, and one first-year, the Macalester Men’s Cross Country (or the “Mac Pack”) ended the 2013 regular season on a high note, finishing sixth of 11 teams in the Nov. 2 MIAC meet at Como Park in St. Paul. The top seven runners will compete in the Central Region meet on Nov. 16 in Northfield, with hopes to break into the top 10.

The sixth place finish marked the third consecutive season the team improved in the conference meet. The Mac Pack finished eighth place last year and ninth the year before that. In 2010, the team finished last in the conference.

“To go from last place to sixth in three years, that’s pretty hard to do, so we’re really happy about that,” said coach Matt Haugen, who is now in his 11th season at Macalester. “More importantly, we were just nine points out of fifth, which was my ultimate goal.”

In a similar vein, team captain Mark Riegel ’14 viewed the two-spot improvement in the MIAC competition as a significant achievement.

“Something I wanted to be able to continue was that tradition of moving up in the conference and we were actually able to do that,” he said. “It’s great to see how the team has improved over the years and especially this season from the first race now down to conference where we saw a lot of guys just make that jump.”

In the MIAC meet, Auburn Jimenez ’14 paced the team, finishing 30th of 230 with an 8k time of 26:40. Finishing just about one minute after Jimenez, first year Lachlan Hinwood ’17 rounded out Macalester’s top seven with a time of 27:41. Only one team—St. Thomas—had a smaller spread (the time differential between the first and seventh runners) than Macalester.

“Of all the years I’ve coached, this is the first time that I’ve had eight guys within [one minute and six seconds] of each other,” Haugen said. “It truly was a Mac Pack.”
Joe Giamberdino ’15, who finished second for the team in the race, saw the meet as a moment in which the team was able to turn some heads in the conference.

“Everybody was healthy for the first time the entire season, and we performed,” Giamberdino said. “We showed the conference what we’re capable of.”

Led by a strong and active junior class, the Mac Pack has been a contender throughout the season despite injuries to key runners Ross Boehme ’15 and Michael Waltman ’15. Early in the season, the team won the Crown Invitational, the first win at an invitational since Sept. 2007. It ran competitively in the UW-Eau Claire and UW-Lacrosse invitationals, finishing 17th and 15th respectively. Even against St. Thomas, a team Macalester has consistently struggled to run competitively against, the Mac Pack performed admirably in the Summit Cup, losing by just 11 points.

Macalester’s top 7 runners—Giamberdino, Eric Biggers ’14, Trevor Maggart ’16, Boehme, Waltman, Hinwood, and Alex Ropes ’16—have already started to prepare for Regionals, which will take place on a St. Olaf campus that is quite familiar to Macalester runners. Jimenez, Macalester’s top scorer at the MIAC meet, will not run in the Regional Championships on account of his position as kicker and punter on the football team. At Regionals, Dylan Saul ’15 will serve as the team’s alternate, ready to run in the case of an injury or illness.

“We race [at St. Olaf’s course] towards the beginning of the season, and then race it at least once or twice at the end, so that’s going to play to our advantage because we know what the course is like,” Giamberdino said.

The Central Region is one of the more competitive Division III regions for men’s cross country, with several nationally ranked teams (including St. Olaf at number three nationwide), but the Mac Pack hopes to finish in the top 10 regardless.

“We believe that based on our conference performance, we’re capable of doing that, but it’s a whole different ballgame,” Giamberdino said.

Whatever the result of the Central Division meet, the Mac Pack is a strong core of runners capable of doing significant damage in the conference in the upcoming seasons. And, in terms of team chemistry, the team’s coalescence over the course of the season has most certainly impressed Haugen.

“I’ve coached on a college level now for 23 years, and these three years have been the tightest most positive teams I’ve ever been around,” he said. “I like and enjoy these teams so much that in August I’m dreading that the season’s going to be over in November. My least favorite day of the year is when cross country ends.”

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