The 2014 UC Davis men's cross country team returns for its sixth 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.

Oct. 30, 2014
By Cody Nguyen

This weekend, my teammates and I will be taking a plane down to my native Southern California. While this is normally a joyous occasion, this particular trip will be filled with more excitement than ever. The Big West Conference meet has finally arrived in Riverside and, with it, comes a chance to make these last six months of training and sacrifice all worthwhile. We Aggie men finally have the opportunity to take our dream of standing on the podium, and turn it into a reality.

As we prepare ourselves during these last few days for the daunting task at hand, we are keenly aware of our underdog status. This season has had many down moments and not too many ups, and UC Davis has been written off in the rankings because of it. The pre-race predictions show no signs of the Aggies in the winners' column. Fortunately for us, none of that matters. The conference meet is not scored in September or October, and our team has taken significant strides in the time since those early season races. Our synergy with each other has improved, and our training has been taken to the next level in order to be the strongest we can be on the course. Being overlooked also comes with it's tactical advantages because we will be able to save our energy behind the "contenders" and track them down late in the race.

However, strategy and training aside, the most important piece for our team's success on Saturday will be the belief we have in ourselves and in each other. Each one of us has to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that achieving excellence is within our power. While the goal of standing atop podium is a lofty one considering our competition, we refuse to back down because we firmly believe in the dream. Coach John Wooden defined success as "knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming." Because nobody knows what the outcome will be, running the race is the only way we'll know what our best actually is. Our team will fight for every place and every second with the belief that we can win, and hopefully, our best efforts result in a victory at the end.

Cody Nguyen is a junior mechanical engineering major from Yorba Linda, Calif., who graduated from Brea Olinda HS in 2012.

Oct. 17, 2014
By Jordon Rushing

The sport of cross country is unique because there are only a few races each season to prove yourself. While other athletic seasons can consist of almost 100 games, runners have only three or four chances to achieve their goals. One race can propel a runner towards greatness or leave him broken, wondering if all the sacrifices were even worth it. As our team travels to Indiana, we realize that this is one of those moments.

While the pressure may seem daunting, we Aggie men have mentally and physically steeled ourselves for battle. Pushing each other to the limit in training everyday has molded our group of individuals into one solid unit with one goal in mind: winning a conference championship. Over the past month, this unit has grown stronger than ever. It is this very reason why when we line up against some of the best teams in the nation in these upcoming competitions, we relish the chance to race ourselves into the history books.

Although Pre-Nationals is just another step towards the ultimate goal of a Big West title, it represents an important test. By communicating in workouts and encouraging others to stay packed, we have learned how to effectively work as one group. However, training as a team is completely different from racing as a team, and this race will allow us to show how much we have improved on this aspect. Working with teammates is a vital strategy that we will employ in our quest for a title, so perfecting that in Indiana is paramount.

As I look around at the team this year, I see that something is different. The bond we share is stronger and the will to win is greater. If we believe in the training we have put in and believe in each other, I know our team can be the one that stands on top of that podium.

Jordon Rushing is a junior managerial economics major from Fair Oaks, Calif., who graduated from Del Campo HS in 2012.

Sept. 26, 2014
By Nick Ratto

Cross country is a unique sport, where, after months and months of training long and hard, the success of a team is determined on a handful of autumn mornings. In few other sports do athletes train all year to compete just five times in the whole season. While outsiders may think training for over 100 days in a row with no competitions is pointless and boring, we know that it is necessary and can actually be very enjoyable. For runners, the season is broken up into several different sections, with each one building on the last. This helps keep the training fresh and the athlete motivated.

The first of these sections is the "base" phase which consists mostly of summer miles. Next comes the "pre-competition" phase, which is when we report back to Davis and start to train officially while integrating the freshmen into the mix. The third phase is the competition period which is when the racing begins to get serious. For the UC Davis 2014 Men's Cross Country team, this phase begins on Saturday, September 27th, with the Stanford Invite.

While all of the periods of training are different, the part of the season where racing begins is what all cross-country runners live for. Although each other part of the season is fun in its own way nothing is as exciting as racing. Long runs, tempos, and interval workouts are all rewarding in their own way, but they cannot compare to the thrills a runner gets when they step to the start line of a race; the excitement, the nerves, the energy. These feelings only last for a moment, but I am sure every runner has felt this way.

After the race a runner has a whole different set of feelings, some of which do not seem so great; fatigue, physical and emotional drainage, pain, but also accomplishment and adulation. After a well run race, the feelings of successfully completing a goal can make you feel better than you've ever felt before, and they can block out the pain and fatigue.

It may be hard for people to understand why runners put in all this work if, at the end, it could all be for nothing. As a runner I will admit I have wondered that myself a few times. However, whenever I do start to feel that way I remember all the times I have succeeded and the feelings I've had at those moments. It is then that I know that all the work is worth it.

If I could tell my teammates one thing before the race it would be that all the work we have done this summer has been worth it and that the results will speak for themselves.

Nick Ratto in in his junior season with the Aggies' men's cross country team in 2014. A native of Alameda, Calif., Ratto graduated from St. Joseph Notre Dame HS in 2012.

Sept. 12, 2014
By Austin Goins

Being a sophomore puts a little more weight on your shoulders with responsibilities you didn't have as a freshman. The most important responsibility is orienting the newcomers into the team culture. You want them to feel part of the team and that ultimately makes it easier for the freshmen and the team to bond and work together as one. As a senior in high school to a freshman in college, there are challenges to be faced. One challenge I struggled with was long runs. This is something I hope to help my younger teammates with as they make their transition. Before college my longest run was 12 miles, and now I am expected to run 15-17 miles for a long run. That jump scared me, but having my teammates with me on those runs, assuring me that I will be okay, made the jump easier.

Coming off a redshirt freshman season, I have a unique outlook on this upcoming season because of my situation. I have the benefit of having a year "under my belt" before hitting the road for my first meet away from home. I don't know what to expect, but from all the training that we have put in this summer, I can already see great things coming our way. We all sat down as a group and got behind one goal that speaks to all of us. Each of us spoke about what we wanted from this season, and looking ahead to the rest of the year excites me. It excites me because each and every person on this team is ready to give what it takes to achieve the goals we have set forth for this season.

Before we meet in August for camp, we have the entire summer to train. Whether you choose to train in your hometown or in Davis is entirely up to you. Something great happened this summer; each one of us chose to run in Davis. That's a difficult decision to make since we are away from home for most of the year. We knew, however, that if we wanted a season unlike any other, we needed to be here. That kind of sacrifice has given me the trust and love I have for my teammates. I am enthusiastic each day because of this. You can't force enthusiasm; it has to come from within. Waking up bright and early each morning is tough, but once I walk through the gates to practice, I can see my teammates and I see why I wake up each morning. I wake up to help my team, and myself, get better.

Austin Goins is in his second season with the Aggies' men's cross country team. A native of Anaheim Hills, Calif., Austin graduated from Canyon HS in 2013.