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Cobber cross country outruns COVID-19

Fall sports are beginning to have organized practices at Concordia once again after an extended offseason brought on by COVID-19. This is also the first time student athletes will be practicing since receiving word their seasons will be postponed until the spring semester. 

Unlike sports like volleyball or football, cross country is both outdoors and does not require any direct contact between athletes, making it the ideal sport to take part in during a global pandemic. The team held their first organized practice this year just over a week ago, but according to coach Laura Januszewski the team already appears to be in mid-season form. 

The Concordia cross country team on their first day of practice together | @cobbercrosscountry on Instagram

“I’ve been really happy. I’ve heard a lot of coaches who were not super happy with the fitness of their teams when they came in. But my team is in really good shape,” said Januszewski.

But being in good shape is not the only thing Coach Januszewski and her runners need to worry about for the upcoming season. Januszewski explained how the scheduling of the season between the indoor track and field season and the outdoor track and field season could prove to be a training challenge for some runners.

“For the long-distance runners, for the most part, it will actually be a pretty nice buildup, nothing too crazy,” said Januszewski.

 Women who are distance runners will run 3Ks for the indoor track season, 6Ks for the cross country season, and 5Ks for the outdoor track season while the men will run 5Ks, 8Ks and 10Ks respectively with little to no break between each season.

“Middle distance, on the other hand, they’re running for the 400, 800 and mile for the indoor season, which is way different than 6K and 8K,” said Januszewski. “So, I’m trying to figure out what we’re going to do to possibly have them contribute to cross country without hurting their track season.”

Januszewski is faced with a dilemma of how to handle things in the spring, but that is not stopping her from taking advantage of the moment right now. 

“Mentally, they’re going to have those days like what am I training for right now,” said Januszewski. “Right now, the athletes are competitors and want to compete in the fall.” 

Although there is no season this fall, Januszewski found a way to give her runners a little friendly competition. Last weekend, the team participated in a virtual 5K with St. Benedict’s and St. John’s.

Meritt Miller, a senior on Concordia’s cross country team, explained the process of competing in a virtual race:

“Basically, the coaches kept track of everyone’s times and everyone on each team ran a 5K on their own and the results were posted online,” said Miller. “We also won, so that’s nice.”

The runners even staggered the times at which they began their runs to maintain a comfortable distance between each runner. 

“Running is unique in that you can do it on your own and our times show we’ve been working hard,” said Miller.

When it comes to practices, Miller listed some of the precautions the athletes take to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading between teammates.

For much of their training, the team is divided into practice pods, which are groups of up to 13 runners that practice with each other. Runners within the pods are not allowed to practice with the other pods. Runners are also required to wear masks for their warmups and cooldowns. 

“They’re learning a lot about themselves,” Januszewski said of her athletes. “This is such a character-defining moment. It’s a testament to them.”

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