Though they've raced in a number of large regular season meets, those events all in some way anticipate later meets like the MIACs and the NCAA Regional meet, to be run at St. Olaf on Nov. 10. The Oles have not competed since Oct. 13, when the team placed 12th of 25 teams at the Jim Drews Invitational in LaCrosse, Wis. David Swanson '08 finished 27th to lead individual Oles, while Cullen O'Neill '09 placed 54th. Jonathan Lambert '11, Jacob Marotz '10 and Aaron Thompson '11 came in 71st, 83rd and 84th, respectively, to round out the Oles' top finishers.
Though the team finished in the middle of the pack, runners found encouragement in the performance. "Some of our lower varsity and upper JV guys really stepped up and ran well," O'Neill said. "We've been lacking depth the last two years and it seems that we finally have some."
Swanson added, "I think we ran pretty well in LaCrosse. We saw some of the fastest times of the season."
The team will need even faster times this week.
The conference meet does not affect Regionals, as the varsity seven will run at the home meet regardless of their MIAC result. However, the team clearly wants to perform well against conference competition and have runners come away with All-Conference and Honorable Mention honors. All of their conference foes will also race at Regionals.
To qualify for Nationals as a team, the Oles will need to finish in the top five at Regionals.
With two weeks off, the team has been able to focus their energy. "We continued to train hard through last week," O'Neill said. "We've simply upped the intensity and held back on the volume to try to get some more speed in our legs for the 'championship' season. We're slightly tapering this week because obviously this is a huge race for us."
The team's generally encouraging performances and the fierce competition among the squads below clear favorite St. John's have each created significant anticipation for the meet. "We expect to have our best meet of the season and see some big performances," Swanson said. "St. John's will be tough, but we are probably capable of beating many other teams."
St. Olaf and the other MIAC men will run at 3 p.m. Saturday.