UCR cross country took part in the Big West Championship on Saturday, Oct. 29 in Kahuku, Hawai’i and despite wind and rain, redshirt juniors Faith Makau (21:29.1) and Weslie Totten (24:04.1) finished third and sixth respectively in the 6k. The women took sixth out of ninth and the men, led by Solomon Demeku-Ousman (26:06.4) and Cesar Solis (26:06.5), took seventh place out of nine in the 8k.
Although the Highlanders were excited coming off the Big West Championship, they have wasted no time in preparing for their next challenge at the NCAA West Regionals on Friday, Nov. 11. In fact, Makau and Totten have been preparing for this race all season as they look to lead the women’s team to a potential NCAA Championship bid. Assistant Coach Robert Hansen explained, “Weslie has been running 80 miles a week through the entire fall, and Faith is running about 70 miles a week,” and he attributes this season’s success to their grueling training. Hansen also expressed a hopeful mentality that Makau and Totten will at least earn individual bids for NCAA Championships, saying, “Faith and Weslie have a very outside chance of being in there (top five individuals) but that’s why we go and that’s why we run the race, for that opportunity.”
While the Highlanders are putting in immense amounts of physical training, they also train their minds for competition as well.
“Our biggest thing is trying to get the group to run as a pack because we feel like we’re stronger and more accountable to each other,” Hansen asserted. “When the going gets tough and you’re running next to someone who is hurting just as much as you, your accountability level goes up.”
The women’s team especially focuses on their mental strength, as Hansen explained, “They hold team meetings to develop affirmation statements that they say to themselves in their head to keep going.” Totten explained that the words of affirmation and the team culture of togetherness is huge tool for her mentally, as she said, “There’s always a really hard part during the race where it hurts so much.” For Totten, her words of affirmation are “fit, fast and child of God,” and she repeats these words during all of her races to overcome the physical strain of the race. Totten asserts that the mental aspects of the race are more impactful than the physical ones, saying, “Everyone is in really good shape at this level so really on race day it’s about who is mentally stronger than the others.”
Totten has completely bought into the mentality that her success is attributed to the rest of the team and vice versa. The Highlanders look for their intense physical and mental training to pay off in the NCAA West Regionals come Friday.