You reap what you sow.

The Bible is full of choice words that can be applied to everyday life, and certainly this powerful maxim translates smoothly within the Good Book of athletic training.

Redshirt freshmen Nicole Edwards and Claire Otwell of the women’s cross country team understand the meaning of that phrase.

Cross-country is a sport in which physical and mental preparation is directly correlated with an athlete’s success. The limits of a runner’s physical and mental capacity are tested in every competition. These boundaries can only be stretched to their natural limits through months and years of grueling training.

Although cross country is a team sport, the true competition is a battle within each runner. She competes against physical and mental fatigue, as well as the clock that records her best time in any given event. Because the nature of the sport can be difficult to understand, many observers may ask why high school runners don’t compete on the same level as college runners.

“The coaching is better, which leads to better training,” Edwards explained. “Strategically, I’ve matured my approach to a race. When I was in high school, I used to run too fast from the start, burning myself out before the race was over. Now I pace myself better and am strong enough to compete successfully at the college level.”

On Sept. 10, Edwards and Otwell reaped the fruits of their labor at the Great Meadows Invitational, in their first official races as Michigan cross country runners. After a full year of collegiate training, they were fully prepared by coach Mike McGuire when they arrived at The Plains, Va. The duo placed second and eighth in a race thoroughly dominated by a spectacular Michigan squad. Edwards was barely outdone by teammate Alyson Kohlmeier, who crossed the line 10 seconds earlier with the best mark in the competition.

Meanwhile, only one non-Michigan runner placed ahead of Otwell, who rounded out the top eight. The Wolverines nearly aced the Invitational, two points short of a perfect score.

The only other Wolverine to make her competitive collegiate debut in the race was sophomore Lisa Uible. Uible was the 14th runner to cross the tape in the five-team event, an only slightly less impressive achievement than that of her fellow newcomers.

According to McGuire, all is going according to plan.

“We redshirt these girls so they can perform as they did,” McGuire explained. “The redshirt year affords them the luxury to train with extremely talented people and build strength. This puts our runners in the best position to perform when their time comes.”

Both Edwards and Otwell take an intense approach to their training. Evidence of the enormous success of their efforts can be found in the stat line – both chopped off a full minute from their all-time best performance in a five-kilometer event – a spectacular feat.

Edwards, who hails from Winnepeg, Manitoba, has shown that her success in Canadian leagues translates to the American field.

In addition to her Canadian background, Edwards possesses a heritage of American collegiate racing. Her aunt Pamela (Klassen) Lawrence holds the Rice University indoor track records in the mile, 3K and 5K, as well as the outdoor record in the 5K race.

Otwell hails from south of the border and takes pride in proving that Americans and Canadians can indeed live in peace. A Traverse City native, Otwell shares living quarters with Edwards, as well as a taste for Hamburger Helper.

“Yesterday we switched to Tuna Helper, which was also delightful,” Otwell said.

Despite their divergent origins, the girls have become fast friends, discovering a shared passion for running and instant meals.

When asked whether competition ever becomes an issue in the household, Otwell concedes that Edwards holds the edge.

“She’s faster than me, and I’ve sort of accepted it,” Otwell said, showing no hint of resentment.

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