Nov. 10, 2014

Brandon Applehans
bappleha@uccs.edu

The men’s cross country team will look to early season success as they hope to progress from the regional to national championships.

On Oct. 4, the team placed third in the Roadrunner Invitational in Denver on the same course that will host the regional championships on Nov. 22.

The team finished sixth at the RMAC Championships in Gunnison, Colo. on Nov. 8, but head coach Mark Misch sees regionals as the main opportunity for the team.

“Our focus is on regionals and for the men they run a 10K, which is different from the 8K in conference races,” said Misch. “We run against everyone in our conference again at regionals, plus other teams. If you’re battling the same schools, if you want to beat a team once, regionals is the place to do it.”

Senior Luke Dakin led the Mountain Lions, finishing 28th overall.

“Individually I ran the race exactly the way I wanted to,” Dakin said. “It was very high in elevation. I probably started in 70th place, I really worked the field well and I felt like it put me in a good opportunity to work well that last mile to compete with some pretty good guys.”

Dakin looks to past success for motivation to get back to nationals, where the team last competed in 2012.

“I’ve been on both the 2011 and 2012 team,” he said. “In 2011, the team was ranked eighth in the region and there were seven nationally ranked teams that raced. Only the top six make it to nationals and we ended up beating three ranked teams.”

Misch uses Dakin, who was originally a walk-on, as an example for incoming freshmen.

“Every kid that comes here as a recruit we tell them, ‘You know this guy was a walk-on,’” said Misch. “He has done a great job, come a long way and is well respected.”

“I was not a very good runner at all in high school,” said Dakin. “Coach was very nice to give me the opportunity. All I had to do was work hard, stay focused and keep improving. It’s been an opportunity of a lifetime.”

The rapid change in weather has led Misch to change practices, with one coming on the bottom floor of the parking garage.

“It’s great because there is nobody that parks there and it’s huge,” he said. “You can actually do about a 300-meter group in there with gradual turns and the surface is the key.”

If the team finishes in the top six at regionals, they will progress to the NCAA Division II National Championships on Dec. 6 in Louisville, Ky.