Wabash Cross Country Coach Roger Busch has been preaching patience to his Little Giant Harriers for the last three years, and last weekend that patience paid off when the cross country team qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships.
While Wabash has sent individual runners to nationals, it has been 11 years since Wabash qualified as a team. The Little Giants were second among 33 teams competing at last weekend’s Great Lakes Regional Championship.
“It has been three years in the making, but we’ve got great junior and senior leaders on this team,” said Busch, who has been named the US Track & Field Coaches Association Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year. “We knew that we had the talent if the guys worked hard and developed. “
As has been the case all season, the Little Giants were led at the Regional by senior co-captain Seth Einterz (left) and junior Kevin McCarthy (below right). Einterz ran to second place in a time of 25:10. McCarthy had a personal-best time of 25:17 to take fourth place.
“Seth is having his best season ever, he's been healthy the entire season, and is the most positive I've ever seen him,” said Busch of his star runner. “Kevin and I talked extensively about a race strategy that he believed in. He is a very coachable athlete and he trusts the plan, and obviously it paid off.”
Donovan White (30th, 25:57), Brian David (34th, 25:58), and Justin Allen (52nd, 26:18) rounded out Wabash’s scoring at the Regional. Allen (below left with Jacob Surface and Einterz)
gave up a chance to compete at the North Coast Athletic Conference Championships, which Wabash hosted, in order to be healthy and rested for the Regional.
“Justin's attitude and leadership have been great this season. And he has been tough as nails fighting through some small and nagging injuries. He believed that we had a great chance at making the national meet and forfeited his senior season conference meet in order to help us reach that goal.”
Kenny Farris (82nd, 26:43) and rookie Jake Ponton (137th, 27:22), both clocked personal-best times at the Regional and will round out Wabash’s squad for nationals.
Wabash’s cross country teams were dominant when Busch ran for the Little Giants from 1992 through 1995. In his senior year, Busch and his teammates were third at the NCAA Division III National Championships. He’s tried to bring the same team concept to this year’s team.
“All seven of our runners who competed at the Regional executed our race plan to perfection, which is very rare in this sport,” Busch said. “I’ve asked these guys to be patient and try new things so that we would be most prepared for the Regional at the end of the year, and that’s exactly what every guy on this team did.”
The NCAA Division III National Championship will be hosted by Wartburg College and held November 20 in Waverly, Iowa.
“I’m very proud of our entire team, top to bottom,” Busch said. “I’m not just proud of the top seven runners; I’m proud of the support and hard work the rest of the team has shown all season. They traveled to the Regional in Holland, Michigan separately from the varsity runners — giving up the chance to go to the Monon Bell football game — just to be there to support their teammates. Saturday’s Regional performance was a total team effort.”
Busch dreamed of helping to guide Wabash back to national prominence when he took over as head coach from long-time leader Rob Johnson. While he realizes that qualifying for the national meet as a team is just the beginning, he’s not looking past what has been accomplished thus far.
“I was a little emotional as we traveled back home late Saturday evening,” Busch said. “ Going to the national meet as a team means a great deal to me, it brings back great memories. And to take a great group of young men to the national meet where we can all represent our college is an overwhelming feeling!”