Nov. 11, 2013
In the midst of the cross country championship season, MGoBlue.com sat down with head coach Alex Gibby to discuss the most-recent Hoosier Invitational as well as the upcoming NCAA Great Lakes Regional.
On Scotty Albaugh capping his season with a win at the Hoosier Invite ... "Scotty had a breakthrough season for us last spring in track, where he made the regionals and ended up placing ninth. And the start of his cross country season was marked by tentative running, but he's a guy, between work ethic and talent, that can really help us out going forward. He's still young -- a redshirt sophomore -- so for him I feel like Indiana was a big win. He was assertive from the gun; he made hard decisions and finished it off and was rewarded for it. We'll make some decisions after the regional, based on the composition of our travel roster, but that performance potentially could have put him in consideration for what we do going forward with the NCAAs, as well as our plans for next year and beyond. I was really excited with his race."
On his thoughts on the freshmen that ran unattached at Indiana ... "The first goal that we have with the freshmen is to stay in one piece. The second piece is to adapt to 8,000 meters worth of running. They're not going to get a shot at 10,000 meters, but trying to get them two or three good opportunities at 8,000 meters is important, so that next year it's a familiar entity. The third part is getting them used to training and racing through the entirety of the cycle. The Indiana meet identified all three of those things, with in particular, Billy (Bund) and Will (Burke). I was really impressed by them. They were very good high school runners so I'm not surprised, but it's sort of a bonus when you see them running successfully at this point in the season. And Indiana is a legit course -- it is not easy. Historically they've run the Big Ten, the regionals and the NCAAs there so I think their times stand up pretty well to what Indiana was doing earlier in the season. Billy and Will have solidified themselves as building blocks going forward to the next four years."
On deciding which seven guys will compete at regionals ... "The first consideration you make is what it's going to take to advance to the NCAAs. We were fortunate that we performed well enough at Wisconsin that we earned the at-large points to play it a little safer. And that's not to say that we're going in there with any intent but to race as hard as possible, but it just gives us some flexibility with the roster. The second consideration is 'what's our squad going to look like at the NCAA?' and what can we do to put our best foot forward there. The regional, in the list of championship meets, tends to be third on the list of three, with the NCAAs and Big Tens probably receiving equal weight. The NCAAs is obviously more important during the NCAA week and Big Tens is more important during the Big Ten week. The NCAA regional is probably a very close third in the pecking order. With that type of consideration, we were really pleased with Ben Flanagan's race at the Big Ten. It showed his talent and the fitness starting to come together. However, he is a freshman and will be at the end of his training cycle. His fitness is still moving forward, but we just thought it would be a better opportunity to give him one shot at 10,000 meters rather than two -- just like we did with Tony Smoragiewicz last year. From there, we made a roster decision -- we had 10 guys that we thought were pretty good -- unfortunately we could only run nine at the Big Ten meet so we sat Nick Renberg, who has experience at 10,000 meters. We thought he would give us a better result at regionals and someone else would potentially give us a better shot at the 8,000 meters at the Big Tens."
On the first time racing 10,000 meters this season ... "In terms of our preparation, our training volumes are set up for 10,000 meters. We periodize our intensity sets up for 10,000 meters. There is a newness with some personnel. With Mason (Ferlic) that's not a concern. With Mark (Beams), Morsi (Rayyan), August (Pappas) and Nick Renberg, that's their event on the track. It's not a new event for those guys in terms of distance and the need for focus and composure. With Cory (Glines) and Connor (Mora) it will be a new hat, but they have adapted really well to 8,000 meters. Both of them have had a very successful fall, but we're still missing that one race. I think that if they're willing to commit to aggressive decision making through the middle half of the race, that culminating opportunity is sitting right there in front of them. We're a little more focused on what we're trying to do at regionals in terms of steering the first couple miles, versus how we approach the middle part of the race, but once you get past three or three and a half miles, it's racing. With the guys that are inexperienced at this distance, it's just a matter of getting them to relate to that fact. It's ultimately just racing -- you're going to be out there a little bit longer than you have the rest of the year, but fundamentally they're going to have to make the same decisions they did in high school at 5,000 and most of this year at 8,000 meters."
On being familiar with Wisconsin's course and most of the top competition they'll face ... "The Big Ten is so pressurized. It's an environment where there were periods of the race where the guys said they couldn't hear themselves think, let alone anyone communicating with them successfully. Then you're going to move to 10,000 meters, where they've seen the course before at 8,000 meters. We ran 10,000 meters there last year for the NCAA regionals and ran it very successfully. You're moving to the regionals where you have 10,000 to solve your problems, so you can afford to be patient and a little more relaxed. They're going to be able to see each other probably even easier than they did at Big Tens. Ultimately, their engagement in the race will be little more relaxed and a little more patient, but fundamentally their going to have to make the same decisions and the race intensity has to be there. Having seen Indiana and Wisconsin for most of the last month, we know their personnel and we know what they're capable of doing. We know what we're capable of doing relative to them and we're interested in measuring ourselves out at 10,000 meters because we think that result in comparison will come out in a positive."
On how the team approaches the NCAA Regional ... "Emotionally, there's the understanding that we have one more race eight days after the regional that we put a lot of stock in. But what I've worked hard to impart and what our upperclassmen, in particular our senior leaders have backed up, is that we can't escape running 10,000 meters at 85-90 percent. We need to be lined up mentally and physically for the decisions we're going to have to make regardless if we have a race eight days later. Maybe we're fortunate enough where we can pull back off the pedal in the last K and be a little more conservative, but you can't prepare for that."
On what they've worked on since Big Tens ... "Physically, we have two more weeks to improve and just before the Big Tens we started to touch on our event specific race paces. Afterwards, in particular as the volumes come down, they get to reach even more aggressively for some of those bigger gears that are going to allow them to be more successful. When we came off the Big Tens, in talking with one of my senior captains, he said he's never been more crushed by a race before and he said he believed that was a good thing. I thought that was an interesting statement because these guys put everything on the line and it didn't quite come out in the manner we hoped for. It is a very mature group and we were right back into quality training within 72 hours after the Big Tens. We were able to get quite a bit of work done last week that I think will aid us in what we're trying to do at 10,000 meters, twice in eight days. In recovering from the Big Tens we really can't fault effort and in some ways I don't think we can fault execution. I just think that Indiana ran a great race and that's something we can't control. We can only control what we can control. I think the guys could live with the result because of that fact. I think the next step in developing a more finished product probably comes out of some of our younger guys -- Cory (Glines), Connor (Mora), Nick (Renberg) -- they need to set the race up intelligently, but we need to start making more aggressive decision mid-race than we have. These are not drastic changes, they're just small decisions that will add up over the course of 10,000 meter, and I think we're very capable of making them."
Contact: Whitney Dixon (734) 763-4423