Men and women lean on unity through ups and downs of season
Sports | Jared Nelson
With the unique position of sharing one coach, the men's and women's cross country teams have had an opportunity to unify in a way most other teams do not. | Photo for The Clarion courtesy Sports Information
As the temperatures plummet and the snow begins to fall, Bethel’s cross country team packs on layers as they hit the trails for practice. They’re preparing for their conference meet on Nov. 2 at Como Park Golf Course in St. Paul.
Mixed expectations surround the men’s and women’s teams heading into the final stretch of the season, as the men have dealt with a number of crucial injuries while the women attempt to improve on their 2012 season which saw them finish near the bottom of the MIAC.
“We had big question marks coming into the year,” said Jim Timp, head coach of the men’s and women’s team. “We graduated a lot of people from last year on a men’s team that finished near the top of the conference and we were looking to make improvements on the women’s side.”
The 2013 campaign began well for the Royals, as the men opened the season with a victory at the Augsburg Quadrangular meet. Bethel was led, as has been the case for the entire season, by junior Matt Berens.
“Matt is extremely dedicated to the sport and able to balance the challenges of being a student and an athlete very well,” Timp said. Berens’ consistency this season has resulted in three MIAC Cross Country Athlete of the Week awards. According to Coach Timp, Berens is in a good position to qualify for the national meet, meaning he could potentially be running competitively until nearly December.
The improvements on the women’s side are a result of the emphasis they’ve placed on depth and chemistry. They employ a technique called “pack running” in which they stay together as a group during races in order to push one another and ensure that nobody falls behind. Junior Melody Walton says that the team will continue to focus on the pack as they head into the Championships at Como.
“We contended with some very strong teams at the Grinnell meet earlier this season, which was very encouraging,” Timp said. “They’ve been running well all season and I think the women have a real shot at the top five at the conference meet.”
The men have similar aspirations for their next race, as they feel that they’re slowly ascending to full strength after an injury-laden stretch of the season. According to Berens, the team has only run one race with their entire roster healthy, and that was at Augsburg, a race that Bethel won.
What makes Bethel’s cross country team unique is that the 13 men and 18 women all run under the guidance of one coach.
“We don’t view ourselves as two separate teams,” Timp said. “The unity is the main thing that defines us as a program.”
The men and women share a training and meet schedule which has allowed them to form bonds with one another that extend far beyond the finish line.
“You see a lot of other teams in the conference that have separate men’s and women's teams without any camaraderie,” Berens said. “It’s fun to have the two genders together to hang out and support each other.”
Walton agrees, saying how happy she is that the team is able to spend such a large amount of time together.
Timp is hopeful that the bond among his athletes will benefit his team on the course of the race on Saturday, and he is sure that it will benefit them in the course of their lives.
“Our love of running has drawn us together, but our faith in the Lord has allowed those connections to reach a deeper level,” Timp said. “These connections have turned into relationships that will last a lifetime.”