Cross Country: Teams reach, maintain national ranking

The Wolves’ women’s and men’s cross-country teams continue to hold their spots in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association polls.

Both teams have maintained ranking throughout the season, with the women’s team remaining no. 1 in the rankings, while the men’s team sits at no. 2.

“It’s the process of running your best when it matters most at the end of the season,” head coach Jeffery DeGraw said.

DeGraw has put together successful Wolves’ teams in the past, but none could top what he has done this season with the women’s team. After losing a strong core group after last season, he had to accept the challenge of rebuilding this year.

Nine new freshman were introduced to the roster this season, which also makes up the whole roster for the 2020 season.

“This team has bonded very well together, and they did a great job of getting the work in over the summer,” said DeGraw. “They really support each other and have bought into our team’s philosophy.”

The men’s team wasn’t left as stranded as the women’s team following the 2019 season. Returning the majority of the roster, picking up where they left off last year wasn’t as big of a challenge.

DeGraw emphasized that this team is built off one another.

“We have told them that our fifth runner is just as important as our first runner if you want to be successful as a team,” DeGraw said.

Both teams will compete in one more match. They will conclude the regular season on Oct. 31 at the Kishwaukee Halloween Hootenanny Invite.

The national ranking comes at a good time as they prepare for the scheduled National Championship on Nov. 14. The teams have been gaining confidence for their work throughout the season, which increases their chances for success at the nationals.

“Again, it’s all a part of the process,” DeGraw said. “Yes, we (women) are ranked no. 1, but rankings don’t mean anything until the end.”

With so much success all happening at once, the athletes have truly bought into the system under coach DeGraw. But DeGraw is quick to give praise to his assistant coach Britney Beall.

“Not only has this team bonded and supported each other, our assistant Britney Beall has done a great job with them,” DeGraw said. “She runs with them and teaches them as they are running. Just the little nuances of running, racing and training.”