For the past six years, the men’s cross country team at California Baptist University have been the undefeated champions of the PacWest Conference. With the last season of Division II competition underway the Lancers strive to keep the win streak alive.
“We want to win the conference, so there’s some pressure,” said Dennis Messmer, junior m a r k e t i n g major. “But we got four or five new guys who are really good, and we have the seniors who are strong. We should win it again.”
Ben Gall, head coach of cross country, has coached the cross country team for the entirety of the win streak, and said the team has goals that go beyond winning the PacWest Championship.
“We want to improve where we finish regionally and nationally,” Gall said. “They were 15th in the country last year and we felt like we could have been better. I think we are much better this year.”
Michael Lowrie, junior criminal justice major, placed first during the season-opening meet and is confident in the team’s ability to be successful.
“The main strength of us this year is there’s no clear No. 1 runner,” said Lowrie. “Us running as a pack is the main thing we can do.”
This season, the team started a new routine, arriving early to their 6 a.m. practice. Not only does this allow the runners to stretch their core so they can start off at a faster pace, but it has also brought the runners closer together.
“It helps the team dynamic and keeps everyone accountable,” Lowrie said. “If someone doesn’t show up 15 to 20 minutes before, we’ll text them and be like, ‘Hey man, you gotta show up at this time, this is what we’ve organized.’”
The tight-knit bond of the group is seen through their goals for the season, which were all team goals instead of personal goals.
“We want to make nationals, win conference and hopefully top-three in regionals. If we reach all of them, I’m going to be happy as well so I don’t have specific personal goals,” Messmer said.
Gall said there are multiple strengths the runners possess that make him confident in the team’s ability to reach their team goals this season.
“The guys just get along really well, they support each other,” Gall said. “They’re self-motivated and have taken it upon themselves to do things outside of coaching to improve themselves this year in terms of extra things, like preparing for classes early. They’re a very good unit right now and it’s fun to be around them.”
When it comes to Gall’s coaching philosophy for the team, it doesn’t revolve around winning competitions.
“(The team) probably get sick of it; we talk a lot about just having fun,” Gall said. “Part of that is working hard to reach our potential, but just enjoying what we do every day, and learning to work together. If we do those things then the results kind of fall in line.”