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Muhlenberg College

Thursday, October 29, 2009

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Championship Preview
XC teams find inspiration in quotes

Posted on the bulletin board in the Muhlenberg cross country locker rooms are the weekly workouts for the entire season, each sheet containing an inspirational quotation from authors ranging from literary great T.S. Eliot (“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”) to country singer Rodney Atkins (“If you’re going through hell, keep on going”).

On Saturday, the Mules will try to draw inspiration from all sources when they compete in the
Patrick Thornton
Thornton has run second for the Mules this year, behind junior Bobby Torphy.
Centennial Conference Championships at Gettysburg. The women’s race is scheduled for 11:00 a.m., with the men slated for a noon starting gun.

“I think they’re all good,” said junior Kim Bier of the women’s team about the quotations. “Each week you have a new form of encouragement.”

“Each one has something pertinent relating to that week,” added men’s senior Patrick Thornton. “As we’ve been moving along, they’ve been more race-day oriented.”

When race day rolls around on Saturday, the Mule men will be trying to return to the top
Melissa Ugelow
Sophomore Melissa Ugelow will look to improve on her 40th-place finish at the CC Championships last year. She has been the Mules’ second runner, behind junior Kate Mahoney, this season.
rungs of the CC. The Mules finished in the top four for eight straight years from 2000 to 2007 but slipped to fifth last season.

“We’re set up well going into the conference meet, and we could surprise some people,” said Thornton. “There’s a range we’re in where we could finish anywhere from third to sixth. Third is realistic if we are aggressive and go after guys.”

Four CC teams (Haverford, Dickinson, Johns Hopkins and Gettysburg) are ranked in the top 10 in the region, with the Fords and Red Devils also in the top 10 in the national poll. Last year, Dickinson snapped Haverford’s 15-year run of titles.

Muhlenberg ran against four other CC teams in meets at Dickinson and Lehigh. The latter race was almost a month ago, and since then the Mules have competed only once. They had just four competitions during the season as they prepared for the two big meets, the CC Championships and the NCAA Regional in two weeks.

“It can be difficult to measure yourself against the other teams, but that’s just the nature of it,” said Thornton. “You just have to trust the training you’re doing, work hard and motivate each other. That’s what we’ve been doing all year.”

The women are hoping to reverse their recent trend. After finishing a program-best fourth in 2004, they’ve slipped one place each of the past four years, coming in eighth last season.

“All the girls are really excited. For most of us it’s something we’ve been working on since June,” said Bier. “We’re ready to place better than we did last year and run up to our potential.”

Like the men, the women will face some stiff competition. None is more formidable than defending CC champion Johns Hopkins, which was ranked No. 1 in Division III for a week earlier this season. Dickinson and Haverford are 2-3 in the region and in the top 35 in the national poll.

“It’s to our benefit to run against such good teams,” said Bier. “We can push ourselves with such good competition and have the opportunity to see how we’re placing against them.”

Like the men, the women are heading into the CC meet on a positive note, having outrun two Division I teams at Lafayette’s Leopard Invitational.

“Each time we run, we build on the previous race,” noted Bier. “Last meet people dropped a minute or more off their times even in muddy conditions. It shows that everyone on this team can run well.”

Rodney Atkins couldn’t have said it better.
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