On September 29, the men’s cross country team took to its first race with fresh legs and a new mindset after a long and grueling summer of training. The arduous work of running eight to 14 miles a day—for some at 5 a.m. before their summer jobs—seems to have paid off. The team pulled off a stunning win at the Maine State Championship meet, totaling 29 points and easily defeating second place Bates (56) and third place Colby (70).
Peter Slovenski, head coach of the men’s and women’s cross country teams, was quick to point out the importance of the win.
“There is a lot of tradition, rivalry and team spirit in the Maine State Meet. Bates, Bowdoin and Colby have all won the race at least once in the last four years,” Slovenski wrote in an email to the Orient. “To have our team step onto our home course and run the way they did … It was like a great Senior Day for Bowdoin XC.”
For the senior captains on the team, the win was a long time coming. The course was in near- perfect race condition, which allowed the team to get into the right mindset and run its best yet.
“It was honestly just exceptional for the whole team. We exceeded what we—and everyone else—thought was possible for us,” said captain Naphtali Moulton ’19.
Captains Sean MacDonald ’19 and Connor Rockett ’19 concurred as to the importance of the win, noting that the win made for a strong start to their last season.
“Of all the winning teams that I have been a part of, this one has meant the most to me, being a senior and having [a win] evade us for so long [and] the fact that it was such a team effort,” Rockett said. “A really amazing collective spirit.”
The men’s cross country team had not won the Maine State Meet since 2013.
All seven of Bowdoin’s scorers ran personal records (PR), with some running nearly a minute faster than they ever had in an 8K competitive race. Rockett made the largest leap on the team at 50 seconds—an almost unheard-of improvement in the sport.
“A 50 second PR is honestly, you are a different runner. He finished the race, got his cup of water and started cooling down by the time his old self would have finished the race,” Moulton said.
There are a number of things that seem to contribute to an atmosphere of success. Members of the team worked extremely hard over the summer to build up endurance and continually practice mental toughness.
“It is this feedback loop of ‘I’m feeling great, everyone around me is feeling great and I think we are going to be running really fast,’” Rockett said. “I think we are definitely in a moment where we kind of have realized where we are, and we want to stay humble, work hard and use our success to continue to go forward and improve.”
The team’s seniors have tried to create a new mental environment on the team, one where each runner forgets his “past self” and focuses on the race in front of him. The strong performances of Rockett and other seniors—including Moulton and MacDonald’s above-30 second PRs—have set a foundation for this new mentality.
“We kind of said: ‘throw away your past times and past races. We are new runners now.’ So, we really harnessed that and got excited and didn’t get scared about whether or not we were running outside our limits,” MacDonald said. “The new you is stronger and better, and if you keep that mentality you’ll do well no matter what.”
This past weekend, the three seniors had another exceptional race day. At Open New England’s in Boston, a race which includes not only DIII athletes, but DI and DII athletes as well, MacDonald placed fourth overall with Rockett and Moulton placing 28th and 37th respectively.
“I definitely like to have a lot of fun during races. I think that the reason people tighten up and fall apart at the end of races is because honestly [they] take themselves too seriously,” MacDonald said of his approach. “I like to goof off. It’s a really good way to cope with the stress of competition and nerves.”
The season is just getting started, but prospects look promising for this year’s team. With a new mentality and strong work ethic, the men are excited for many more successful—and fun—races.