Friday, November 4, 2011

Marcus Bridger-Wilkinson - A-Sun Championships

Men's Cross Country

Last weekend we competed in the Atlantic Sun Cross Country Conference Championship which has been the focus of much of our seasons training – it was even more important to me as it was my first conference championship at Belmont. We had the advantage of competing on our home course at Vaughn’s Gap in Percy Warner Park, which we had previously run two races on this season as well as numerous training sessions. On Friday we met as a team for a meal and to discuss race tactics. We also heard an inspirational talk from former individual and team champion Brad Polly. On Saturday the weather was cold, but clear, and a huge improvement from the 95 degree day of our first race of the season.

On the start line the whole team was excited because of comments made by the Lipscomb team, which motivated us even more to beat our closest rivals. The gun went off and I quickly moved into position with teammates Brandon, Josh, and Kurtis. Before the race we planned to run the first 1.5 - 2 miles conservatively and then pick up the pace to finish strong and use our knowledge of the course to our advantage. After the first 800m we built the “demoralizing wall” which involved the four of us running shoulder to shoulder and forcing anyone who wanted to pass us to move all the way around while crushing the spirit of the people we ourselves passed. As a group we started to move up the field, passing those who had started out too fast on Sideways Hill (named because of its awkward gradient). Coming past the crowd on the second lap felt great and it definitely made a big difference having so many Belmont supporters there. By the third mile Josh Helton had made an impressive move forward which eventually secured him 14th place and Atlantic Sun Second-Team Honors. With just over a mile to go, Brandon Mahaney was 10 seconds ahead of me and I knew that it was important that I closed the gap so that we could work together over the final part of the course. At the 1,000m mark I caught up with Brandon and we worked together to finish strongly in the home stretch and gain a number of vital points.

The whole team put 100% effort into the race and there were some great individual performances, especially by Matt Miller who continued his impressive form to take 4th place and earn Atlantic Sun First-Team Honors! Unfortunately, despite our hard efforts we were beaten by a better team on the day, which although disappointing, will motivate us more for our next race as well as our next season. The team heads to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the NCAA regional championships on November 12.

- Marcus Bridger-Wilkinson

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