The Ashland University cross country men's and women's teams will travel nearly 600 miles in vans to venture less than five miles on foot as they head to Marquette, Mich., for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships on Saturday (Oct. 21) morning.
The women's race will start at 11 a.m., and the men's race will begin at 11:45 a.m.
This will be AU's fifth race of the season, and the Eagles haven't traveled further than 220 miles to this point. First-year head coach Jacob Sussman explained how that could be an obstacle for his team.
"They're used to traveling, getting there an hour before the meet starts, getting off the bus and running," he said. "The challenge for them will be feeling like they're still at home because they'll wake up at the hotel and wander over to the meet."
Of all the courses that Ashland has competed on this season, it's the only one that Sussman never ran on during his time as an Eagle.
"That could be a good thing, because we're going into something new," he said. "I don't have any tips for our runners besides what the other coaches have given to me."
Last season's meet was hosted by Ferris State and took place in Big Rapids, Mich. The Eagle men finished fifth of 14 in the 8K, and the women placed 10th of 15 in the 6K.
Of the 10 Ashland men competing this year, only senior Tyler Lance and sophomore Kyle Shively ran in the race last year. Lance came in 54th of 120 runners with a 26:57.6, and Shively finished 83rd in 27:50.4.
The women also feature just two runners who competed last year at GLIACs. Junior Emily Schumaker was the top Eagle in 2017, placing 48th of 123 with a 24:06.1. Sophomore Johannah Stefanek was 79th in 25:19.4.
Seven of the 10 Eagle men competing on Saturday are freshmen. Five of the 10 women are first-year collegians.
"The men have a really good chance to get back in the top five," Sussman said. "That would be a huge accomplishment for them because of how young they are.
"On the women's side, to get in the top half of the conference would be very positive. I think they'd be pretty pumped about that."
The GLIAC meet is the only one separating the Eagles from the Midwest Regional meet, scheduled for Nov. 4 in Cedarville, Ohio.
"It's all about the now," Sussman said. "Right now, I'm just thinking about conference. Regionals are another beast. That'll be tough, but everyone's pretty focused on conference."