Growth mindset Capital Cross Country focused on developing the right attitudes in 2018 before worrying about the outcomes

By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Mentality and attitude are important in every sport but especially cross country, where your biggest opponent is the clock and often yourself. That is why Hannah Weiss, the fourth-year head coach of Capital University Men's and Women's Cross Country, knows that the earlier her runners can begin developing that mental strength the better.

The teams have four races in the first four weeks of the season, something that Weiss said is not ideal but just how the schedule shook out. She has already told the runners that they may not feel fresh heading into each race but that that is an opportunity to test the mental strength they’ve been building up.

“Our goal in those races is to use them as checkpoints,” she said. “When it’s all said and done someone else can have a fantastic day or a terrible day but you can’t control anything about what they do. You have to give your best effort regardless of if that places you first or last or anywhere in between. That’s what you can control.”

With that said, Weiss has been extremely pleased with how each of the runners have worked to get into race shape.

“I tell kids that the summer is the first half of their cross country season,” she said. “If you look at most of the kids and when they started their summer training, that was 13 weeks ago. There are 12 weeks now until nationals. So you’re over halfway done with your season and we’re just getting started. What you decided to do or not do during the summer is entirely going to affect how your season is going to be.”

On the men’s side, Andrew Rus and Nathan Hutchins are the two most experienced members of the team and Weiss said that they will be important examples of the strides the younger runners can make. Christian Vermillion is also returning after taking a year off. Jonas Pyle, a sprinter-turned-distance athlete rounds out the upperclassmen.

“(Jonas’) body was not handling traditional sprinter work really well so we decided to move him up to middle distance, and he’s done much better in that realm, so we bumped him up to cross country,” Weiss said. “He’s adapted to it really, really well. While his mileage is still rather low compared to most distance runners he’s doing very well for not having the same aerobic background that many other people with his background would have.”

Andrew Rus and Nathan Hutchins, shown here enjoying track season, will lead the Crusader men on the cross country course this fall.
After a year off, Christian Vermillion will return to the cross country course after a strong showin during track season.

The four freshmen on the men’s team may have to adjust from running 5K races in high school to 8K races in college, but the work that they have put in in the offseason has Weiss feeling optimistic about this year and the years moving forward. Grant Ward, an all-state wide receiver and regional qualifier in track, EJ Rondez, Daniel McPherson and Ilja Danilecs will all have ample opportunities to make early contributions.

“I really liked the guys’ goal of having a 40-second or lower 1-5 spread and I think that’s do-able,” said Weiss. “I think this year they’re going to be rather close to each other and so if they can really pack it up that’s our best opportunity to do well as a team, to work together as a pack and put ourselves, particularly for conference, in a good scoring position.”

The women’s team returns four from its 2017 squad, including returning upperclassmen Mackenzie Meyers, Larkin Joseph and Emily Hilt. Alaina Miller is back for her sophomore season. Weiss knows that Meyers and Joseph have both made strides, but Hilt has really impressed after changing her training styles after last track season.

“Being a multi athlete in track doesn’t always transition well to being a cross country runner but she’s come in and been in much better shape,” Weiss said. “She dropped a minutes and a half from her two-mile time trial at the beginning of the season compared to last year so I’m excited for her.“

“Mackenzie will be our number one all season. She’s putting in 70-mile weeks in right now which is crazy. She’s having great workouts so far.
A more natural track runner, Larkin Joseph "knows the type of work we do in cross country helps her so much in track season," Weiss said. "She’s super strong now."

The team’s six freshmen all have a chance to crack the regular lineup right out of the gate, especially Kayleigh Noecker who finished in the top four in some of the team’s early activities. Still though, she and the rest will have to fight for their spots.

“They all show promise in a lot of different ways,” Weiss said. “Some of them are probably going to see it a little earlier than others but those are the ones I would expect to be in our top five or six going into our first meet. They’re fairly close together. There’s not one freshman that’s blowing the other freshmen out of the water or anything like that.”

That first meet for both teams will take place on Friday, Aug. 31 in Westerville at the Battle of Columbus featuring rival Otterbein University. The schedule will continue with meets each Saturday until the teams’ first break on Sept. 29. With the right attitude though, Weiss is confident that the teams will see progress throughout the season.

“Our focus is on having the right mindset to move forward,” said Weiss. “We have a really young team and we’re really trying to focus on each day we’re getting better. There isn’t a ball or anything like that that you can take away from your opponents, you just have to give something to yourself. . We talk a lot about having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. Each day we’re focusing on what we can control and what ways we can make ourselves better.”


Photo Credits: Tony Coles; Joe Maiorana, Impact Action Sports Photography

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