Cross Country Chronicles

The 2010 UC Davis men's cross country team returns for the second installment of "Cross Country Chronicles," giving fans an exclusive look at what makes Aggie!

Jonathan Peterson shares what went through his mind while in the midst of his All-American performance at the 2010 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships and the post-race reactions and reflections.

A mild 76 degrees out and all my senses are alive with excitement. I take a second to feel the smothering wind flow over my sweats as I take in the sense of the field and the crowd so anxiously awaiting the start of the NCAA men's 10k race. Ten minutes until the gun goes off and I've already established that there is nothing more I can do but wait, for everything leading up to this has prepared me to do exactly as I had planned. The extra long warm up before ensures that my body is ready for the task while allowing me to stay relaxed and hold my composure. The race I am about to begin has already been won in my mind. The only thing I have left to do is take care of business as usual. I've never been more relaxed and composed, for every meet leading up to this final dance has been about two things: choice (or lack thereof) and patience.

This season has been a rollercoaster of emotion for me, with a lot of eagerness leading up to each race, while trying to combat it by keeping a relaxed mindset. My goal was to step up to the line each time with a sense of tranquility. While in the past I usually approached each race with a sense of urgency, looking to take command of the field at the blast of the gun, this season was not about that. I had to maintain my composure, looking for specific points to take advantage of. And within a race, there is no one around to say "go now." Instead, it became instinctual. I could feed off of someone for a while, until my legs grew tiresome of a pace I would deem too lax. This would be the point at which my mind would completely phase shift, locking into a pace. Once I took advantage, I knew I was in complete control and would attain the goal that I had sought earlier. It was no longer a question to anyone. I was going to have it.

Jonathan Peterson is the first cross country All-American in UC Davis' Division I history.

The second, and probably more important of the two components, was the absence of choice. The last decision I made in terms of my season took place before I even started my summer training. And that decision was that I would leave myself no option when it came to my training, racing, and lifestyle. Any plan B that I would have set up was instantly scrapped from my memory, as it simply distracted from plan A. A plan that wasn't my main motive was simply noise to me. It would have allowed for a safety net in the event that I didn't attain my goal, allowing me to settle. And once I had removed all other possibilities, everything became easy. It was simple. There was no getting around any aspect of training. With every day that my legs felt like lead, I made it my priority to put in the double that the training had called for. It didn't matter to me, because I gave myself no options. Choice was a luxury I no longer had. In a sense, this mentality was mirrored by the team as well. We gave ourselves an objective and stuck to it. We knew what had to be done. Our only task once the work was put in was to take care of that task out on the course. This mentality was extremely crucial for me when it came to the NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Once the gun went off, we immediately face a strong head wind for about a half mile. The success of my season up to this point is a distant memory. Nothing matters except what is happening right now. My goal: All American (top 40). Relying on my two foundations established earlier in the season, I must maintain contact with the lead pack while also keeping my composure. Within the first 5k loop, I tuck in behind the pack when the wind is too strong and move outside when the wind is at my back. Keeping a constant place around the mid-20s, I survive the first half of the course within my ability. As I turn towards the home stretch, I quickly move up to the back of the chase pack to help fight against the intense wind.

The second half would be unlike any other race I've ran all season. Though I didn't give myself any options, I would have to bleed the most on this course, as it was intended. Within the second half of the race, I fought tooth and nail to not only maintain my position, but also eventually move up. Locking into a faster pace near the last 2k would have been the death of me. Instead, I couldn't allow myself to slow down. I had already secured a spot in the top twenty and continued to move up as bodies fell behind. Turning down the final stretch, I picked up one more to be at 14th. He moves one more time and I almost allow myself to let him have it. But that was never my plan, and I had only one choice: success. And while I didn't finish ahead of the entire field that day, nor even in the top ten, I did just what I had set out to do. I had left every ounce of myself on that course and had no regrets at any point during my season. The only outcome that was acceptable to me was success, and now that I have accomplished everything on my list, it's time to start a new list. Looking towards the future, this team raised the bar and now has a new norm. For every success that today brings elicits hunger for tomorrow's goals.

Fed Martinez reflects briefly on the Big West Conference Championships before turning his attention to the NCAA West Region Championships.

Fed Martinez

It's been a long and winding road here in Davis over the past couple years, but after what happened down in Riverside - after winning the conference championships - it has definitely all paid off. Earlier in the year we were worried about putting together a solid team and whether or not it would play out well, but since then we have come full circle and have pieced together the perfect puzzle. After every race leading up to the Big West Championships you could tell things were slowly starting to click. It's a great feeling going into a race knowing that all your teammates are on the same page. And it's even better coming out of a race with heads held high, picking apart small details we could fix, and implementing them in the next race.

It's just amazing. This is the closest group of guys I think this program has ever brought together and it shows. The team atmosphere couldn't be any better and doing things like winning conference titles just makes it better. Not only has the support from within the team been awesome, but all the support we received before and the support we continue to receive from family, friends and alum has been greatly appreciated.

Flipping the page, we turn to the next meet on our schedule. Like every other race, we've put the Big West Conference Championships in the rear view mirror and are now getting ready for the NCAA West Region race. The last week leading up to the race has been a really relaxing one. Like the rest of the season, I think everyone knows what we're up for and what we need to do. Personally, I've had this race in my head all season and now that it's basically here I'm all jittery. It's been kind of rough trying to just relax and not overdo anything since the conference meet. It's really nice though knowing everything you could do to prepare has been done. With that in mind, it eases everything out and helps me stay relaxed.

Rolling into the race without a target on our backs is nice, but we're definitely trying to put a target on ourselves by the time we cross the finish line. We're the classic underdogs. We really have nothing to lose out there on Saturday, but the fact that there is a national championship berth in sight has kept the momentum going. Like I said before, we know what we need to do to get ourselves there and are all confident in ourselves and in one another. Being the first cross country team in UC Davis' Division I history to win a conference title, becoming the first to qualify for the national championship meet would be like icing on the cake. It would be a year of firsts for all of us and the program.

I'm proud to call myself an Aggie and hope this paves the road for all Ags to come. Go Ags!

Jonathan Sees previews the team's feelings entering the Big West Conference Championships and the desire to come home champions.

It's strange to think that a week from now will mean that the first "half" of our season is coming to a head. From summer running on our own to heading out for camp in late August, all of our work has come to this. This is when our championship season starts. The Big West Conference Championship meet takes place on October 30 in Riverside, Calif. and the primary goal for this team is to win a conference title. UC Davis has been a member of the Big West Conference for three years now, and we have made noise and gotten into the mix, but it is time for us to set the tone and precedent that we are a force that will not go away. Our aim is to continue working harder and remain tougher than the rest; that is the way here in Davis.

I am pretty excited to head down to Riverside. Not only am I ready for the opportunity to become the first UC Davis cross country team to become Big West champions, but also for the opportunity to enjoy traveling with my team. This team puts in work when it is called for, and a lot of our commitment and drive comes from the support of other teammates. We have all had days when the wheels just aren't turning right or when our head is somewhere else, but this is an unselfish team that does what it takes to make sure that we are always firing on all cylinders.

These next few weeks are what we have all been pushing ourselves and each other for. We have chosen to stay close to home and compete against other West Region opponents, but it is time for us to be unleashed. We know how good we are and we have a real chance to prove ourselves against teams with established records of accomplishment. But, we know this won't be as simple as showing up in Riverside and going for a tempo run to win. None of those teams are just going to lay down and give us the win. That is what I want though; I want to know that if we win a championship it will be against other teams working their hardest. I have never won a team championship in 15 years as a high school or collegiate student-athlete so I'm ready. I'm ready for my last two seasons (cross country and track and field) to bring titles, flags, banners, trophies, medals, ribbons, and whatever else comes with a conference championship back to Davis. Let's GO AGS!

Freshman Kevin Griffith talks about transitioning into his new life as a collegiate student-athlete at UC Davis.

Well first off, I could not wait to report to college to start training!

Freshman Kevin Griffith is from Danville, Calif.

Between practice, races, academics and maintaining health, college is definitely more intense than high school ever was. I am training with great athletes that push each other to do their best every day. I can always count on my teammates, especially the upperclassmen, to motivate me on a tempo or arduous long run. The team is also very committed to our strength, core, and flexibility routines, and I think that core and flexibility have made a tremendous difference in my performance and injury prevention so far this year. Shin splints have been a consistent problem for me, and all the time spent conditioning off the trails is paying off. On top of all this is the amazing support system that UC Davis offers! I owe thanks to the coaches, strength coaches, athletic trainers, sports psychologist, and team nutritionist who have all dedicated time to the cross country teams' success.

One of the biggest steps I have to take is learning how to live on my own. Being on my own has not been too difficult, but it means there is a lot less time for the usual goofing around. Laundry is now a necessary evil that I must complete once every week, and on top of that I check my e-mail religiously (something I never used to do). I also opened up a bank account before school started. Hygiene and nutrition have not been a problem at all though. I am still able to maintain good hygiene habits, even without a men's bathroom on my dorm floor. Good nutrition is especially easy to achieve with the vast amount of food choices in the dining commons. There is more than enough protein, calories, carbs, fruits, and vegetables to satisfy an athlete's needs.

Academically, college has held me a lot more accountable. UC Davis is on the quarter system so classes cover a lot in a short amount of time. I can't miss a single class or else I will fall behind schedule. In this fast-paced atmosphere, time management is critical. I rely on my planner and calendar much more than I did in high school. I am also taking advantage of the tutoring that is offered to student-athletes, which is a great privilege. Most importantly, not idling when something such as homework needs to be done is paramount. There are many distractions, activities to do, and people to meet; but especially as a student-athlete I need to stay focused on my classes' deadlines. There will always be free time to have fun; it just can't be all the time!

My first eight kilometer race of my collegiate career was an awesome experience. We raced at the Stanford Invite with many other teams there from the western region. It was very competitive, with teams such as Stanford, Arkansas, and NAU being there. As a team we placed 7th and individually I finished 6th on the team. I think I can improve my time by increasing my pace during the first half of the race, and I am very excited to race faster at the Bronco Invite in two weeks! It was also very nice to see my sister, mom, and dad (who's been at every race I've ever had) there. Lastly, the Aggie Nation was there in full force and it was inspiring to see UC Davis students at every turn!

UC Davis is turning out to be a perfect fit for me. It is a fun college town with many great people and places. The food is exceptionally good. I have nice roommates, have befriended many fellow student-athletes, and have high school friends in every one of my classes! Being a part of a team with such great chemistry has also been a remarkable experience. Every time I step to the line I am proud to be wearing the UC Davis colors! Go Ags!

Calvin Thigpen, in his fourth year with the UC Davis cross country team, reflects on the highs, lows and, most of all, the steadiness of being part of a team.

Running can be an incredibly rewarding sport, but it certainly comes with its lofty highs and depressing lows. In my cross country and track career at UC Davis, I've had my fair share of both extremes. Highs include scoring in the steeplechase at the Big West Conference Championships my freshman year and coming in third for the team at the NCAA West Regional meet my sophomore year. Following that, I've struggled through three seasons of injury, missing both my sophomore and junior years of track but squeaking onto the cross country team last year. Spending inordinate amounts of time on bikes, in the pool, and in the training room was not what I had planned on doing for a year and a half. However, I've come through that frustrating stretch of injury a more mature runner, with a fresh appreciation for how wonderful unfettered running can be. This is my fourth and final year of competition, so it's about time! Now I get to focus on making this cross country season one to remember.

What makes cross country special is the close-knit team atmosphere, and getting the whole team back together after a summer of base work is always exciting. Freshmen are introduced to new teammates and everyone swaps stories from their summers. This year's freshmen class on both the men's and women's teams is one of the biggest and best we've ever had, so there is a lot of great, youthful energy and talent that has been injected into the team.

After a first week of team training that included the arduous, second annual "Full Moon Run" (a steady state effort on the track at night) and a team time trial, we hopped on a bus and headed to our annual summer training camp in Point Reyes, a beautiful peninsula located just north of San Francisco. In a way, this trip to Point Reyes was a perfect way to celebrate my comeback from injury, as it was incredibly rewarding for me to be able to run in a location with my teammates and friends. Even after a relatively cool summer in Davis, it was refreshing to run in the breezy, fresh climate of Point Reyes. What really shocks me is that this park is so underutilized. It's located so close to major metropolitan areas, yet we felt like we had the park to ourselves!

Everyone always takes the training aspect seriously, but everyone also knows that a number of shenanigans are bound to happen at camp. One thing you quickly learn is how to identify the card sharks. For example, freshman Shannon Harcus shot the moon twice in a row while her Hearts opponents stared on helplessly. A major occurrence at camp this year, though, was the abduction of "Ted," which brought all major camp functions to a halt, including DINNER PREP! as the abductors and Ted's allies negotiated his return. Who would have thought that Ted the zucchini would have caused so much disruption?? In the end, Ted was returned, and camp was able to resume.

This year we also held the first annual Cross Country Camp Prom, complete with cheesy, creative ways of asking your date to the dance and full-on dress attire. Some of the more memorable courtship efforts were an invitation to the dance in the form of a modified version of Justin Bieber's "Baby" (complete with backup singers), a ballad accompanied by guitar, and a message written in the sand at the beach. The costumes were similarly imaginative, including a cardboard chopper motorcycle for transportation to the dance, a cardboard top-hat, and a newspaper tutu. Needless to say, we had a great time.

Although we have a lot of fun, this team knows how to buckle down and get to work. That much was clear after a summer of training with nearly all of the returners in Davis, and it was clarified further with our week of training in Point Reyes. It seems that this dedication has already begun to pay off; in our first meet of the season our guys were able to pull off a perfect one-to-five sweep. Although that was exciting and satisfying, there is much more to come, and I hope you'll keep up with us on this blog and cheer us on at our meets! Go Ags!

Head coach Drew Wartenburg discusses the summer, preseason and the overall excitement that goes hand-in-hand with the start of a new season of Aggie cross country.

Here at UC Davis, we like to refer to the summer as the first half of the cross country season simply because of the way the student-athletes take it upon themselves to keep their own training schedule going. During the summer months, nobody pulls on a singlet or laces up cross country spikes. Instead, our student-athletes assume the commitment completely on their own. As the "first half" of the season draws to a close, we will soon have close to 40 Aggie runners in town for our August 22 report date.

The first month that our team spends together might be my favorite time of the season. Given that UC Davis' academic schedule follows the quarter system, we enjoy more than a month together before the athletes actually have to crack a textbook or enter a classroom! Although these first several weeks of the season are sometimes referred to as our running honeymoon, it's not exactly a vacation. After report date our men's and women's teams continue to take advantage of the cool, Northern California mornings for our main run during the early season. This year we'll also be holding our second annual Full Moon Run, which involves a tempo run on the track under the light of a full moon on August 24th.

After the roster is solidified during our first week together, both teams then travels to Point Reyes National Seashore, where many Aggies have logged miles on the hilly coastal trails of Marin County over the years. Aside from the great training grounds, our five days at Point Reyes provide the student-athletes an opportunity to bond, set team and individual goals and relax and recover in between runs in a beautiful setting that isolates us without internet or cell phone service.

With the arrival of September, the necessary attention turns to our early season races, but much of the focus also remains on continued training and preparation for meets that come later in October and November. Outside of runs and workouts on the trails, greenbelts and UC Davis field space, Aggies frequent the Wednesday and Saturday local farmer's market, enjoy lunches together, and soak up the summer nights in our relaxed, college-town atmosphere.

The 2010 season will feature a true blend of veteran leadership and experience coupled with the zeal and fresh blood of strong recruit classes on both the men's and women's sides. During July and August incoming freshmen spend their first nights on campus as part of the orientation process, and you can almost feel the energy and anticipation that they exude as they prepare to blend with the Aggie returners.

We hope that you'll follow the Aggies throughout a competitive fall campaign that will culminate with the Big West Conference Championship at UC Riverside and the NCAA West Regional meet in Eugene. Aspirations for appearances at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. will also factor into the mix. Happy running and have a great tail end of the summer.