Kansas Wesleyan distance runner Shane Calvin (JR/Lakin, Kan.) knows he’s going to be nervous. It’s simply unavoidable.
“This is the biggest meet in the nation for us so definitely very nervous,” Calvin said of the NAIA Men’s Cross Country Championships he will compete in at 7:30 a.m. (Central time) Friday in Tallahassee, Fla. “It’s kind of hard not to think about it.”
Calvin will toe the starting line with teammate Austin Hess (JR/Garden City, Kan.), 76 other individuals and 36 teams. It’s his first appearance in an NAIA national event but he feels he’s done everything he can to prepare for the 8-kilometer race.
“I’ve been getting to my best at the end of the season,” he said. “At our last meet (Kansas Conference Championships on November 5) I hit a seven-second PR (personal record) so I’m feeling pretty good about how we’re going into the race.”
Calvin is indeed peaking at the right time. He placed seventh in 25 minutes, 41.29 seconds in the KCAC race as KWU placed second in the team standings behind Saint Mary. Hess was 14th in 26:00.02.
“It’s eat right, sleep right, stay out of things that might get me hurt,” Calvin said. “I think the biggest thing is always consistency, doing the same thing over and over again will always get you a little bit better, a little bit further.”
He also credits Hess, who has been at his side or close by the last several months as they prepared for and proceeded through the season.
“It started over the summer when we were roommates,” he said. “We’ve had four or five months of training with one another, being there for all the hard workouts and long runs by ourselves. He’s definitely been very helpful to have alongside.”
“Shane is what we would call a gamer,” KWU coach Garrett Young said. “He is not going to lead hardly any workouts. In fact, he’s usually trailing a bit behind Jake (Cruz) and Austin but always at the biggest moments is going to step up and perform the way you know he needs to and the way we expect him to.”
Calvin has harkened back to the last big event he participated in to try and help him prepare.
“The first time I qualified for state track we went in the 4×800-meters and that was the first event that gets run at state track meet,” he said. “There was a ton of people everywhere constantly so it’s hard not to be nervous with how many eyes there were.”
The Tallahassee course is difficult but manageable, Calvin said.
“It’s a 2,400-meter loop and it’s a slight downhill for a majority of it but then the last 600 meters is supposed to be a really big hill,” he said. “That’s kind of a make-or-break point for a lot of people. I think that I’ve got a lot of the strength to be able to make it through there without falling off.”
“I think Florida plays pretty strongly into our strengths of what we’ve been working on all season,” Young said. “We like these fast courses and a little bit of a challenge in there. I’m not going to say that we spent the season preparing for this specific course but what we have done all season lends us some strengths going into Friday.”
Hess returns to national meet
Hess is making his second appearance in an NAIA event after competing in the half marathon the outdoor championships in May.
“Him and Shane have run pretty much stride for stride in workouts and races all season long,” Young said. “I think having the two of them there together is going to lend some confidence to both of them.
“It’s the reward of a lot of hard work and labor these last couple years being here as upperclassmen but not at the end of their senior years either.”
Ehrlich represents KWU women
Madisyn Ehrlich (FR/Salina, Kan.) will cap her stellar freshman season by competing in the NAIA women’s 5-kilometer race Friday that begins at 8:30 a.m.
She qualified for nationals by placing 10th in the KCAC Championships in a time of 19:02.88.
“It’s just a great learning experience for her,” Young said. “She gets the luxury of coming into this with no expectations – you’re a freshman in your first season of college competition and you’re finding yourself at the national championship. At this point it’s go run hard and see where you’re at.
“It’s a taste of what the national meet looks like. This is something that you want to be back to every single year and you’ve got to work to do that. I think that’s going to feed into her passion for the sport.”