Thursday, October 30 2008

3:30 p.m. cross country practice in October consists of a few runners wearing winter hats, sweatshirts and staying in the sunshine as long as possible to keep the muscles of those valuable legs warm. Practice also consists of a little taste of home for some of the runners.

Brad Butler, a red shirt senior from Monticello says he wanted to go to a smaller school but still run division I. Eastern Illinois offered him exactly what he wanted.

“I’ve come to running camp for 6 years here at Eastern and got to know the coach which made me want come here,” says Butler.

Matt Feldhake, a freshman from Effingham came to EIU when he saw how the team treated him as a recruit.

“I looked at how the teams treated my on my recruiting visits, this team treated me as a team mate already and not just a recruit”. Feldhake also says the history of Eastern’s cross country team inspired him as well. “In the 70’s they were really good, and I wanted to be part of a team with a lot of history.

Feldhake discusses his choice for going to school so locally. “It was close enough to home but far enough. It was the right choice. Illinois-Chicago looked to recruit me, Indiana State and Illinois State, but this was comfortable.”

Head coach Geoff Masanet says he thinks smaller school [high school] kids like EIU a lot because it is bigger than their hometowns but not too big. “They are probably not used to big shopping malls and TGI Fridays on every corner and since we don't have those amenities, they don't miss them quite as much as a kid from a larger area.”

Brittany Arthur, a freshman from Arcola confirms Masanet’s opinion by stating she chose Eastern because of the size and how comfortable she felt. “I really like the size of EIU, the atmosphere is great, and it’s not far from home. It’s about 20 minutes and I find it really homey and comfortable.” She also didn’t run cross country in high school, her school only had track.

As far as the relationship with her teammates, despite that many of them are from the Chicago-land area, she says they get along great. “We’re all really close, our times are really close too and it helps us push each other to do better,” says Arthur.

Then there’s EIU runner Claire Dau, a freshman from Charleston, who is the closest of all to home.

Dau’s decision was also based on her attending running camps at Eastern, Coach Masanet’s coaching and the girls on the team. She also based her decision on her major which is broadcast journalism and says she really likes the program.

“I wasn’t definitely going to run in college,” says Dau, “I was looking at ISU, but I wouldn’t have run there. I narrowed it down to Eastern to run.”

Dau talks about going to school in the same town she lives in. “I wasn’t planning on going to school right down the road, but being so close to home is not bad. My brother plays soccer and I can go back to his games, and it’s not as bad as I thought. Being so close to home wasn’t why I came, but it’s nice to see familiar faces.”

The entire team is not comprised of just local runners; nevertheless local athletes do have an advantage. Masanet explains his recruiting process. “We recruited locally for no real deliberate reason. However, we can see these local kids more frequently in competitions because they are close by. I can start practice some days, then jump in my car and be at a high school cross country or track meet in 20 or 30 minutes and thus be able to see these kids run. Some of these kids grow up in the shadow of EIU and know a lot about us. The big thing is that since we can see these kids compete more often, we can forge a better relationship with them during recruiting and I think that helps get them to come to EIU.”

As far as what the coaches look for in athletes to bring to the team, Masanet explains that since they do have several Charleston kids on the cross country and track teams, they can help newcomers adjust to life in Charleston a bit easier. “They know what routes we run when we train off-campus, they know a good barber or hairdresser or which restaurant to go to: some of the off-the-field stuff. We are fortusteepleweb that our local kids are also good athletes and help our teams on the field.”

Goals for the remainder of the season, Feldhake explains for himself is how he wants to continue to improve but is still getting used to running in college. “My times aren’t really where I want them to be, but I know freshman year is about getting adjusted to the training and the race.”

Butler says his overall season goal consists of coming into conference as one of the top 5 as a team.

Coach Masanet elaborates, “Evansville was our best meet of the year. We have been battling some illnesses and also have just been training hard so it was nice to see things come together for us at that meet. Hopefully we will keep improving and will have our best race of the season at conference November 1.”