Men's Cross Country takes mix of youth and leadership to Big 12 Championships
Oct. 28, 2010
Ryan Graney, Texas Media Relations
To start the 2010 cross country season, the Texas men have shown the capacity to compete at a high level. The team has enjoyed contributions from both experienced runners and those new to the program. Underclassmen have won individual races and others have demonstrated the ability to help the team's effort.
Going into the Big 12 meet, where each runner's finish is equally as important, the team's leaders are confident in what the younger runners can do.
"This freshman class has been incredible," junior Brian Rhodes-Devey said. "They've elevated their game so much in all aspects. We brought in a really talented class but we also brought in a class that's willing to work hard. They don't use their age as a crutch. There's no assumed seniority. We're all on the same team. We're all just guys working hard."
After re-joining the Texas program two years ago, assistant coach John Hayes has brought new life into the Longhorn cross country team. One of the main avenues for improvement has been bringing in a mix of talented but hard-working freshmen each year. To this point, Hayes is pleased with what he's seen from this young group.
"They've done a great job," Hayes said. "All these guys are young. You have guys that were freshmen a year ago, sophomores now that are slowly starting to exert their ability to run at this high level. It's a good, young team. The freshmen are absolutely impacting in a great way."
On a team laden with youth, leadership is an essential aspect to success. As the more experienced runners draw on experience, it allows the younger members of the team to avoid common mistakes early in their running careers.
"The older guys have helped a lot with directing us with how we should do the right things throughout the year," freshman Ryan Dohner said. "At a meet they help us show our pride in our school and letting everyone know who we are and be proud about it. Every time I put on the burnt orange it's a privilege to race."
Dohner explained that the tight-knit atmosphere within the Longhorn cross country team is unlike anything he has been a part of.
"I've never experienced anything like this before," the freshman explained. "Going into our first race the goal was to everyone to be together in a tight pack where everyone could touch each other with their hands. We did it for a whole three miles. It was a really cool feeling to have all your guys with you. If you're out there by yourself and you're racing a whole bunch of other teams, they're just going to push you around. Having your team around helps so much. It protects you. That's how our whole team is."
The closeness of the team is drawn from the leadership of Coach Hayes and the inspiration of leaders like Rhodes-Devey. Hayes explained the importance of the veteran leadership that has been so strong with this group of Longhorn runners.
"We've got three guys that are juniors and seniors and all three of them ran at the national championship a year ago," Hayes said. "These guys can talk about it. They've been successful in this arena, at the Big 12 Championship before. It's comforting for the young ones that we've had somebody that's been successful at this level. We're confident when we listen to these guys. They've been great leaders. It's been invaluable for our team."
Entering the conference meet, Rhodes-Devey admits that being a leader for the cross country squad has been made easier by the eagerness that each member of the team, young and experienced, has to listen and improve in order to benefit the team.
"The great thing about this team is they work hard," Rhodes-Devey said. "They want to know how to do this right. They want to figure out what's best for the team. I get my orders from coach (Hayes). I let that be known around the team. Everyone really respects that."
Rhodes-Devey explained that the team's bond continues to grow.
"There's a lot to be said about guys who are willing to hurt in front of you," Rhodes-Devey said. "I've seen everyone on this team at their best and at their worst. Everyone on this team has seen me at my best and at my worst. There's no better feeling than lying on the ground and having one of your teammates pick you up and slap you on your back and say, `Great workout.' That's what brings us together.
"When we line up as a team, I can look everyone in the eye and know that they're going to give it their all just as much as I am. That's as important to me as anything else. I know I'm out here with these guys. We all have a common goal to succeed as a team. I know that these guys aren't going to quit. I'm not going to quit on them. To be able to race with them is a really gratifying experience."
To some, cross country appears to be an sport where each runner competes for an individual place at the finish line. However, this group of Longhorns finds its strength from the team aspect fostered by Coach Hayes.
"It's a really important thing for a cross country team," Hayes explained. "As you stand on the line for a national championship cross country meet, it's easy to feel like an individual out there. If you know the six guys to your left and right with burnt orange and Texas across their chest have been battling with you and you have the same goals, you've battled together and gone through all these hard workouts then you're confident in them. There's this confidence in running as a pack. There's confidence in knowing that you guys hang out together and you trust each other."
For the freshmen, trusting their teammates and coaches is crucial in developing a confidence and comfort level while running collegiately. The underclassmen, often for the first time, need to rely on others to help them achieve their goals.
"Training together with this team has helped a lot," Dohner said. "It's definitely a confidence thing. We all have confidence in each other."
So far, the freshmen have earned the confidence from their team, as well.
"We continue to bring in the right guys to this program," Coach Hayes said. "It's important to have the right people not just the right athletes."
Rhodes-Devey has seen those qualities in this group of freshmen.
"We brought in a class that wants to be here that wants to run for the University of Texas," Rhodes-Devey said. "That's the most important thing. These kids want to be here. They want to be a part of this team."