The 2013 UC Davis men's cross country team returns for its fifth installment of "Cross Country Chronicles," giving fans an exclusive look at what makes Aggie runners one of the top teams in the Big West Conference. Follow the Aggie men all year long as they make a run to the Big West Conference championship.

Nov. 1, 2013

"The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare."- Juma Ikangaa

As the most important meets of the year rapidly approach, and the team gets ready for its toughest competition yet, it is almost too easy to forget what has gotten us to this point in the first place. Still, it is important to look back at all the work we have done. Two hours long runs, mile repeats, recovery days, and even trips across the country to compete against the best teams in the nation have all prepared us for our foray into the championship season. As we look back and put everything into perspective, it is nice to know that most of the hard work is already behind us.

As I sit and look back at this season so far, I ask myself a question: 'Why have I put all this work in?' For me that question is not very hard to answer. I have done this work to put myself and my team in the best possible position to achieve our goals. So far we have done a pretty good job of that.

While my season has not been perfect, I have improved with every race and if that trend continues my personal goal of being all conference is within reach. The team has progressed in the same fashion. We have come a long way since the beginning of the season, and our goals of challenging for a Big West Conference title and finishing higher than any UC Davis men's team ever has at the West Regional both seem reachable. Its going to take good performances from both me personally, and the team as a whole, for the goals to be met, but if our goals were that easy to achieve it wouldn't even be worth the effort of pursuing them.

The toughness of our goals definitely adds more pressure to these post season races, but pressure makes diamonds.

- Nick Ratto is a sophomore from Alameda, Calif., and a 2012 graduate of St. Joseph Notre Dame HS.

Oct. 3, 2013

This year's NCAA West Regional meet on Oct. 4 is just a 10-minute run from where I grew up in Sacramento, California. I consider myself lucky to be able to compete where the roots of my running career began. Knowing that I get to compete so close to home has led me to reflect upon the journey I have gone through as a runner and how I have gotten to where I am today as a UC Davis Aggie.

In my past running career, I had been motivated solely by my individual ambitions. Coming from a different style of coaching, every decision I made as a cross country runner was done only to better myself. Going into my second year as an Aggie, I have come to realize why they call cross country a team sport. Every person on this team strives to be successful. I have made a couple of key adjustments since my freshman year: I strengthened my training philosophy, became more consistent with the training and bettered my communication skills between my teammates and the coaching staff.

This team is determined to be great. All 16 men on this team have put in the work to allow our goals to be set higher than ever before. Many of us trained together all summer long in Davis, and now it the time has come for us to show the results of all our hard work. We have set a high standard for this team, and we work together everyday to achieve our goals. Every one of us has the same role on this team; to be committed to fulfilling the aspirations we have set forth for ourselves.

This weekend at the West Regional Preview at Haggin Oaks Golf Course in Sacramento, we will measure our fitness against a number of different teams from around the region including a majority of the teams in the Big West Conference. We look to better ourselves while gaining valuable experience in the process. This will be the first of many tests for the 2013 season, and we hope to get things off to a good start.

- Jordan Rushing is a sophomore from Fair Oaks, Calif., having joined the Aggies from Del Campo High School.

Aug. 29, 2013

The cross country season is rapidly approaching, once again prompting the arrival of dozens of new and returning Aggie distance runners, eager to make their mark during the upcoming season. For the men's side, the past year has been a fruitful period marked by growth and transition, and I've noticed a new atmosphere and vibe that seems to have developed over the course of a short summer filled with long mileage and workouts. It's fascinating to read the blog posts from just a year ago and remember the almost grim sense of purpose that accompanied every workout and race that our distance squad undertook. The largest incoming squad of freshmen that Aggie Cross Country had ever taken on was forced to adapt, not only to each other, but to the rigors of collegiate distance running. A small group of sophomores and juniors, underclassmen just a year previous, were obligated to grow up just as quickly and help lead the way through a season punctuated by breakout performances and a disappointing postseason that saw the men's team fall agonizingly short of their goals. But that was last year.

This year, the team enters the season with an overall fitness that has completely blown me away. It is clear that all of our younger runners have learned from the mistakes and inexperience of freshmen year and are zealous to achieve the goals that just eluded us 9 months ago, a good sign considering they still constitute the majority of the team. Despite their age, these men are acting and running like seasoned cross country veterans with years of college experience under their belts. The incredible fitness and dedicated attitude prove to me that the trials of last year were the best thing that could have happened to our team; we were forced to grow up and adapt, and now we can approach this year with a renewed sense of purpose and with the knowledge that this team is truly special (and will be for years to come). We can also finally start accomplishing some of the lofty goals that were out of our reach in years past. I'll say it now because I know it's true: this team should be able to contend for a podium finish at the Big West Conference Championships, and then we will look to run better than ever at the NCAA West Regional Meet on November 15th. Before it might have scared me to state outright that UC Davis Cross Country would experience this kind of postseason success, but now it just amps me up.

On a more personal note, I count myself incredibly fortunate that I still have the privilege of running with UC Davis during such an exciting period. It would have pained me immensely if I had exhausted my eligibility some previous year and been forced to cheer on the sidelines while the Aggie Cross Country program goes through some of its biggest and most exciting changes. With only a year left I know it's time to go out and, with the help of my teammates and the coaching staff, prove to the world that Aggie distance running is a force to be reckoned with. I couldn't be more excited.

- Grayson Hough is a senior from Davis, Calif. He is a graduate of Davis High School