BRIDGEWATER, Va. – When the Bridgewater College men’s cross country team placed fifth at the ODAC Preview Meet to open the 2013 season, many Eagles fans may have been asking the question, “what happened to those guys?”
After all, the Bridgewater men were picked to finish first in the ODAC preseason cross country poll.
Not to worry, it’s all just a part of head coach Brian Flynn’s big-picture plan for the program.
“We’re very conservative with our training approach,” Flynn said. “We want to be running our best at the end of the season. The past two years we’ve finished higher at the region meet than our ranking heading into the meet.” Two years ago, the Eagles were ranked 10th going into the South/Southeast region meet and finished sixth. A year ago they were ranked eighth and finished third.
Flynn had a couple of goals in mind for the first race of the 2013 season and his veteran runners followed his plan to the letter.
"Our main goal was to build confidence in those back-end varsity runners. We wanted those guys to have a positive 8K and enjoy the run and we did just that,” Flynn said.
Goal number two was to get a feel for the course at Hampden-Sydney College where the conference meet will be staged later this fall.
“We wanted to run hard enough to get a feel for the course, but not hard enough to race.” Flynn explained. “We treated it as a light workout so it wouldn’t affect our training.”
The Eagles top six runners finished less than four seconds apart as the pack finished in positions 25-30 at the ODAC Preview.
“They were supposed to run between a 5:45-5:50 mile pace,” Flynn explained. "They should be able to run that pace for more than an hour. They did a good job.”
Getting his runners to follow the game plan was an easy task for Flynn.
“It’s all part of changing the culture of the program,” said the BC coach. “We have a lot of respect for each other and they have confidence in me as their coach. They listen to what I’m telling them because they believe in the way we train.”
The strategy was the same for the women’s team that finished third in the first meet despite missing its top runner, Kaylee Kubisiak.
“I was really pleased with how our women ran. They ran better than expected,” Flynn said. “The goal was to get at least one runner to run with our top three of (Stephanie) Breen, (Zanny) Ludtke and (Mackenzie) McDonald. Lauren Johnson did a really good job of stepping up and running with that group.”
The Eagles top four finished in places 15-18, less than two seconds apart.
“Our women have matured a lot as runners,” Flynn said. “Our older runners did a really good job of leading the freshmen.”
The Eagles compete again on Sept. 21 in the Shenandoah Valley Invitational in nearby Elkton, Va.
The approach to the second meet of the season will not vary a whole lot, according to Flynn.
“The strategy and goals will be pretty much the same. We’ll just run at a little faster pace,” Flynn explained.
If the big-picture plan unfolds as Flynn envisions, the Eagles will be running their best when it matters the most.
“I like where we’re at,” Flynn said. “I think you will see us perform at a high level at the end of the year.”