The men’s cross-country team hosted its first and only home meet of the season in Leesburg, Va. at Oatlands, the team’s relatively new home course. The competition was fierce for the men as they placed second against top teams such as La Salle University, the favorite to win the Atlantic 10, and American University, whose assistant coach was Mason’s former cross-country assistant coach.
Andrew Gerard, who is in his eighth year as Mason coach, is the director of Track and Field and has completely revamped the cross-country program since he has arrived. With experience at such prestigious schools as William & Mary and Stanford, he was able to put cross-country on the radar in Mason’s sports program.
“This year’s team is one of the most experienced and most accomplished teams I have ever coached at Mason,” Gerard said. “They could do some of the most unprecedented things ever done in the program. We have just been putting the last few pieces together and I look forward to a strong showing this weekend.”
With six weeks until the end of the season, the team has been training extra hard.
“We have been pushing hard these last few weeks. The boys are running around 60-110 miles a week,” Gerard said. “Each week, we have been doing a combination of long runs, tempo runs and race runs. The guys really live a Spartan lifestyle. They have to take care of themselves; they cannot be out until three in the morning like you hear famous athletes doing. The amount of water they drink throughout the day could be the difference between a good and a bad practice.”
Looking at past meets, Mason has placed second in the meet at William & Mary, who are the defending conference champions, and placed well at the meet in Richmond.
With the southeast arguably being the strongest region in the country, Mason competes with top competitors. In the past, they have made it as high as second place in the Regional Championships.
This year, the Championships will be held in the second week of November in Charlotte, N.C. Gerard calls the Regional Championships the ultimate goal where they will hopefully place well and come out with a higher ranking than before.
“Talent means nothing without hard work, it is truly a blue-collar sport. Our athletes must be disciplined and committed to the lifestyle in order to be successful,” Gerard said. “The team is only as strong as its weakest player. I could have my first four players place one through four, but if the fifth player places 267th, the team wins nothing. It is paradoxically one of the most individual yet team sports.”