Men's track and field: Gonzaga preps for transition to spring

Gonzaga junior runner Cullen McEachern laces up during practice at Spokane Community College last winter.

With the spring season approaching, Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Pat Tyson is looking to tackle the challenge of preparing his men's track and field team, both mentally and physically, for the coming campaign.

The team's first out-of-region meet is the Stanford Invitational on April 2, which will be Gonzaga's first major test of how effectively athletes have trained during the indoor season. Senior Peter Hogan said the meet will be an exciting opportunity to see how far the team has come and what kind of challenges it might face later in the season.

Junior Dominic Arce said the captains and upperclassmen have worked hard to help create a prosperous team dynamic and set a tone.

“A lot of the guys have gotten to the point where they are self-motivated enough, and it is not just information coming from the captains about things that have to be done,”  Arce said.

Tyson described Hogan as an athlete who has grit and someone who will consistently do what it takes. Tyson said Hogan prioritizes the importance of focusing on personal goals and continually having a positive team energy. 

“All the older guys are pretty easy-going, and I think that works especially well at the college level with running,” Hogan said. “I think keeping it loose and goofy is pretty important, and it makes it more fun.”

Tyson said some of the new faces on the team have already been beneficial to the team dynamic. One example is freshman Riley Moore, who has sparked some attention by being awarded with West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in cross country during the fall.

“These six freshmen that came in, they’re all dialed in,” Tyson said. “They came in with that 'Peter Pan' mentality. They can fly, and we hope they don’t lose that.”

Tyson and his athletes  said the team's primary goals for the season are to build confidence, improve communication and continue to work on internal motivation.

“So, our expectations are to immediately get every kid to get personal bests,” Tyson said. “If you continue to get PRs, then it motivates you. It fuels you. And that makes it easier to get up for your morning run, easier for you to spin your wheels on those hard workout days.”

Tyson said he wants to send as many athletes as possible to the NCAA West Preliminary Round in Lawrence, Kansas, in June. Last season, six athletes reached that stage. This year, the team is aiming for even more to qualify.

While having Zags qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships is the headlining goal, Arce said he realizes how reaching and working toward smaller goals each week is necessary.

“I enjoy the process a lot,” Arce said. “I enjoy putting weeks together and getting consistency.

"I love training. I think a lot of us do. We can’t be at this level if you do not enjoy the process.”

The team is focusing on its indoor season until mid-February. After that, athletes will be putting their work to the test for the outdoor season.

“Winters for long distance runners can be pretty long,” Hogan said. “Especially when it’s snowy, and when it seems like every time we’re running, it’s either dark and it’s getting light out early in the morning, or it’s light and getting dark out at the end of our runs. It can make the days feel shorter.”

Jane Ferguson is a contributor.

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