Veteran coaches lead cross country team to success
On a beautiful Saturday morning, one may catch a glimpse of individuals who run as gracefully as gazelles through the greenery of Bethel’s campus. While gazing at these gazelle-like runners one may wonder where they run to? Or, why do they run with such determination and purpose? Or even, why a human being would submit to the torture of running for miles on end?
Regardless, these individuals who have dedicated a major part of their college careers to the daring sport of Cross Country, form a contingent of endurer’s of pain, who with military-like discipline, run across pastures for the sporting glory of the Bethel community.
The onset of the fall season is representative of Bethel College’s Cross Country teams’ hard work. This is potentially a sign for greater Bethel representation at the 66th NAIA national men’s and women’s Cross Country championships on November 19th in Vancouver, Washington.
Despite the slightly below mid table positions, Bethel Men’s and Women’s cross country occupy eighth and seventh place respectively, in the preseason poll, and the slightly shaky result at the Terry Masterson Classic in Hutchinson, the most recent performance of both programs seems to suggest otherwise. The Carol Swensson Invite hosted by Mcpherson college on September 10 is a testament to the hunger of both men’s and women’s Cross country as they each placed fourth overall.
Individual performances during the invite are indications of the positive energy the season is starting with as six runners both women and men placed in the top 15 at the invite; Natalie Graber picking up a second place finish, and Alexandra Mendoza sixth place in the women’s race, while Mauro Campos snatched a third place finish, Luke Schmidt sixth place, Arran Kearny seventh place, and Tobin Wise a thirteenth place finish.
Naturally this early success is a credit to the new direction of the Cross Country Programs. Their Coaching structure is divided between two new coaches: Amber Russell and Mark Nelson.
While Amber Russell specifically oversees the recruitment of cross country runners and coaching of long distance track athletes, Mark Nelson takes over the direction of the Cross Country programs with a focus on the recruitment of track and field athletes. The collaboration suggests one of veteran coaching in the gruelling sport as a few of Russell’s achievements include; coaching two individual state champions, leading Valley Center High school Cross Country to the state championships 11 times and being a nominee of the Lifechanger of the year award.
This experience is complemented by Mark Russell’s successes in the sport including: his direction of the University of Fayetteville’s cross country helping 33 runners achieve NAIA All-American status, also helping the team break 65 school records, as well as producing three national champions, with a national top ten finish.
Unlike the myth of Sisyphus, whereby Sisyphus is cursed to push a boulder atop a mountain, which eventually falls back of its own weight, Bethel’s cross country athletes with the tacit expertise of their new coaches, are reaching to lay claim over the mountain.