After weeks of training for 5,000-meter races, Michigan’s women’s cross country team is ready for a little change of pace – literally. The runners’ times at this week’s Michigan Intercollegiate, a 4,000-meter race in Milford, will be three to four minutes shorter than their average 5000-meter times.
Coach Mike McGuire predicts that the this week’s competition will not be as fierce as others this season, as the teams participating in the meet are local, and not highly ranked. Because of this, the Wolverines are sending their younger and less experienced runners, as well as those with backgrounds in middle distance racing, to Milford. Despite this, McGuire has high hopes for his team’s performance.
“The expectations are the same for this group as they were for last week’s, and the week before,” McGuire said.
Freshman Jennifer Leichtman, who is competing for the first time since mid-September, has had little experience with short-course racing. Though the race is shorter than normal, it will be no less challenging than a 5,000-meter race.
“I think I might’ve had a 4K race in high school, but this will be a new experience for me,” Leichtman said. “Longer races are easier for me. I’m more of an endurance person than a speed person.”
Leichtman’s teammate, sophomore Theresa Feldkamp, is also a novice, not only in short-course races, but in cross country in general.
This will mark her fourth race this season, and she is expecting it to be a learning experience.
“I didn’t run in high school, and I was redshirted last season,” Feldkamp explained. “I need to stay aggressive, and go out hard, but not too hard. I want to stay up with the lead pack.
“The shorter it is, the happier I am. I am feeling confident, and I think I could do pretty well.”
Leichtman also recognizes the fact that because this is a short-course meet, she must alter her racing strategy slightly.
“I am going to have to go out faster,” Leichtman said. “In fact, I am going to have to run the whole thing faster.”
To combat the obstacles of inexperience and changes in strategy, the team is taking a different approach to practice.
“The course is supposed to be hilly,” Feldkamp said. “So this week we are spending a lot of extra time on hills. We are also going to do more speed work.”
Despite difficulties, these athletes are optimistic about the ramifications of a shorter track.
“The 4K will be useful because it’s shorter and faster,” Leichtman said. “And it might make me go faster in my 5K races.”