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  • The 2012 UC Davis men's cross country team returns for the fourth installment of "Cross Country Chronicles," giving fans an exclusive look at what makes Aggie runners...well..run! Follow the Aggie men all year long as they work towards a second Big West Conference championship.

    Everything that Trevor Halsted and the Aggie men have trained for this summer and fall comes down to the NCAA West Regional meet in Seattle on Friday and UC Davis is ready to put everything on the line.

    Trevor Halsted

    As the team readies itself for the West Regionals in Seattle this week, it represents the culmination of a process that began early in the summer. More than 20 weeks of concentrated training filled with countless long runs and workouts have prepared us for this final test. Sessions in the weight room, long runs on the American River Trail, hill repeats at our camp in Point Reyes, grass repeats on the IM fields, afternoon doubles, and our frequent loops of `Cactus' or `Airport' have challenged our bodies and transformed a group of runners into a cohesive team. However, performance is the true metric of cross country success: most importantly, we must measure our results in Seattle against the vision and goals we established at the beginning of the season.

    Regionals truly will be a test of an entire season of work. 10 kilometers of grass loops (2 kilometers farther than any of our previous races) demands that the race expose not only our last week of fine-tuning and our performances of the last month, but also the five months of preparation that have led us to this point. Even as we steel ourselves for five laps of the Jefferson Golf Course, I'm excited to realize the rewards of a season of dedicated training as a team. We have learned and improved from each competition, including the Big West Championships in Riverside that is still fresh in our minds, and each new test represents an opportunity to prove the growth of a team that has progressed significantly since our August report date. Regionals represents a final opportunity for our young team to compete with veteran resolve and confidence.

    While I appreciate the process that has brought our team to this point, my primary feeling is one of excitement. The other day as we were running along the levees on a foggy morning, the fast-approaching conclusion of the season finally set in for me. "I can't believe it's actually November" I remarked, knowing that championship season is already upon us. The chill of the autumn morning and the chill of anticipation for championship performance - this is what November is all about in my mind, and it has quickly become a reality. It's championship season, and it's time to race.

    It's conference championship time and Brandon Pugh and the Aggie men's team is ready to give their all once the starting gun sounds. After weeks of training, it's all come down to this meet.

    Brandon Pugh

    Weeks upon weeks of training have flown by and championship time has finally arrived. This week our team will journey south to Riverside for the Big West Championships on October 27th. It seems wild to think that its been almost two months since camp and goal setting for the year. Going into conference we come bearing some strong goals, by no means easy ones. Nothing great comes easy though and I know that every single one of us will toe that line giving our all.

    Exactly four months ago I was sitting at my high school graduation, and now I find myself scoring and racing collegiately. Since then my life has been a series of transitions. The summer before report date, or "the first half of season" as it is referred to by our coaches, was filled with trying to move into the realm of higher miles and faster paces than I had ever experienced before. Luckily I had a close group of teammates to help guide me through. Having strong support and a group of men to run alongside every day is just amazing. Over the course of the first few weeks I fell right into a training group of sort, similar paces and such, and could count on keeping each other honest and working towards our potential whether it be together in training, the weight room, or doubles.

    Every early morning workout, every tempo, every bit of effort has led up to this point. This may only be my first collegiate season and it is easy as a freshman to want to settle after a bit of success or making a travel squad, yet you must continue to keep your head up and push until the last meter of the last race is firmly behind you. That is one of the things being an Aggie is about. I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to represent UCD cross country and run alongside the hardest working men I know. Every man an Aggie!

    Freshman Eric Neill has been an Aggie for four weeks and is acclimating himself to life as a collegiate student-athlete. With the help of his coaches, the other newcomers and the veterans, the intimidation he felt at first has grown into confidence and excitement at what lies in store for the men's team.

    Here we are, in the midst of our fourth week of training since report date. It's hard to believe that in these four short weeks, I have already met 35 teammates and four coaches, raced in a team time trial and two collegiate meets, and spent a week at our team camp at Point Reyes, all while transitioning to life here in the wonderful town of Davis. It's all been a blur to me, so I will try my best to give a quick rundown of what the UC Davis cross country team has been up to these last few weeks.

    Eric Neill

    As a freshman in a new program, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, it is easy to feel intimidated. This year, however, I have a large group of other freshmen in the same situation as me, and so together we have navigated our first few weeks in this foreign environment. We also learned quickly, however, that there is no reason to feel out of place. Our veteran runners quickly took us in and showed us the ropes around here.

    Any lingering doubts we had about our team unity were quickly dispelled during team camp at Point Reyes. From the few bits of information we could glean from the upperclassmen, we knew something special happened at camp and I couldn't wait to experience it for myself. The misty hills, soundless forests, and rhythmic beating of the ocean made for some of the most incredible running of my life. When not running, our days were spent relaxing, with some common activities including frequent naps, good meals, snacks, reading, and playing games. We had a lot of fun, with memorable events like create-a-costume-out-of-paper-and-cardboard prom and scary story night. Our very own Olympian Kim Conley also hosted a Q&A about her Olympic experience. To conclude camp, our team split up and, under our fearless leader Grayson Hough, set a vision for what the men's team would strive to accomplish this year. Our goals are not going to be easy to achieve, but with some hard work I believe our team can surprise a lot of people this year.

    At our most recent meet, the Hornet Jamboree at Sacramento State, the men's team had a solid performance coming off a week of hard training at the coast. Racing without our top six men certainly presented us with a challenge, but also provided an opportunity for several of us to step up and score for the first time in a collegiate race. Although not all of us reached our goal times, it only provides more motivation to train harder in upcoming weeks.

    With our preseason in the logbooks, it's now time to look forward to our midseason invitationals and the start of classes. Our first major invitational is at Stanford, where we will move up to our normal racing distance of 8K. I couldn't be more excited about our team this year and what we can accomplish. I know it's going to be tough, hectic, and sometimes stressful fall, but I am confident that our hard work will pay off come championship season. No matter what, I'm proud to be an athlete here at UC Davis, and promise to represent my university with honor during my time here. Go, Ags!

    In the first post of 2012, team captain Grayson Hough discusses how excited he is to start the new season and acknowledges the sacrifices and rigors of a UC Davis cross country runner. And yet, the greatest challenges can also lead to great opportunity.

    Junior Grayson Hough

    As the upcoming season of cross country fast approaches, the customary feeling of excitement creeps through me and I find myself constantly thinking about the business of running. By now it's an instinctual response to the changing of the seasons; the carefree nature of summer fades away and as autumn takes hold the body readies itself for a new season complete with new opportunities and fresh challenges. And with only a few years left in my running career here at UC Davis, I've been approaching these challenges and opportunities with a fresh perspective.

    One of the biggest challenges each runner must deal with is the constant work and effort that the sport demands, day in and day out. For a collegiate runner, there is no respite, no off-season for relaxation and certainly no room for slacking off. The mileage mounts, the midterms and exams begin to overwhelm, and the thousand little things that make life just a little more difficult all conspire to create a sense of fatigue and tedium that I've never failed to experience at some point in the season. People seem so fond of asking just how you can possibly run 10 (or 15, or 20, or whatever) miles in a single day. It's a question that every runner gets to answer too many times, and one that has always frustrated me because it entirely misses the point of this sport. Sure, each individual run takes a measure of endurance and dedication, but I consider cross country to be an endurance sport because of the willpower, commitment, and just plain stubbornness needed to continue participating in such a taxing discipline that offers no rest or relief until the day where you finally hang up your spikes. And surmounting this challenge is not easy, not by a long shot; in my many years of running I've seen far too many talented athletes simply drift away and give up, unable to cope with the constant sacrifices that cannot be escaped or avoided.

    But, oddly enough, this is also where the greatest opportunity lies within the sport of distance running, it's just sometimes difficult to see. Every runner that manages to get through this period will emerge stronger and fitter, tempered by the challenge that they have had to deal with. After weeks and months of working your tail off, refusing to make excuses, and giving no quarter, it becomes clear that the best way to deal with the various challenges that accompany this sport is to embrace them, and force them to make you a better athlete and competitor. It's these challenges that make me so excited for the upcoming season; I can't wait to take them on and become a better runner and Aggie.

    As the season grows closer and the date of our first race becomes measured in weeks and days, not months, I eagerly anticipate the arrival of the full Aggie squad. It's true that our men's team is extremely young (probably the youngest ever in the history of the program), but I refuse to view the upcoming season as a "rebuilding year". I've always hated the term, as all it does is provide a preemptive excuse for failure. Instead, I view the youthful nature of the team as another opportunity: with youth comes hunger, eagerness and a refreshing bit of naiveté. If the team can collectively embrace these traits and the obstacles that will certainly test us, I see no reason to feel anything other than optimism for the upcoming season and the future of the Aggie program.