The men’s cross country team has experienced tremendous success so far this season, and Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Jeff Langdon reveals some of the reasons why.
From finishing first in the Belmont Opener in September to having four runners set personal records in Louisville, Kentucky, the men’s cross country team competed at high levels this season, resulting in the team placing eighth in the NCAA South Region.
Langdon credits the team’s success to the “team first” mentality it has adopted.
“The philosophy we have as a program just really brings out the best in these guys,” Langdon said. “They run well together in practice which correlates to running well in races.”
And they have been running undoubtedly well.
In their last meet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, the Bruins competed against 10 of the NCAA South Region’s top 15 ranked men’s programs and finished fifth overall. Matt Edward and Kaleb McLeod — the one-two-punch as Langdon describes them — lead the pack, finishing 11th and 15th respectively.
McLeod was one of four Bruins who redshirted last season in order to up their mileage and compete at a higher level this year.
“It’s just a year of training — not having to worry about peaking for a particular race. It was more about just getting some more miles under his belt.” Langdon said.
Chase Ballard, Declan McManus and Ben Weisel all sat out last season in the same respect.
“Bringing these four into the fold has just created a lot of energy.” Langdon said.
The team also competed among the best of the best in the Louisville Cardinal Classic and finishing 11th. The team outran powerhouses such as the University of Louisville and the University of North Carolina, and four runners set personal records in that meet.
“We are on the rise and the best is still in front of us.” Langdon said.
Coach Langdon believes the 2017 cross country team could be the best in Belmont history. Between a core group of redshirt sophomores and a strong incoming recruiting class, this team has a great chance of being the best that Belmont has ever seen.
Langdon compares this year’s squad to the 2007 team who finished fourth in the NCAA region and just missed qualifying for NCAA nationals. Only the top 31 teams in the nation qualify for nationals — meaning that the 2007 team was one of the best in the country — and this 2017 team is not far behind them.
When describing what these two teams have in common, Langdon said, “There’s no cancer on the team. There’s always one, and we don’t have one. They’re all in this.”
Langdon also credits camaraderie as a key factor playing into the success of the team this year.
“It’s a tight family, and I think that’s what makes a team. Everybody looks at our sport as being an individual sport — and it is — but if we can somehow turn this individual sport into the ultimate team sport then everybody runs better,” Langdon said “You’re not running for yourself, you’re running for your teammate.”
On Oct. 28, the team will travel to Eastern Illinois University to compete in the Ohio Valley Conference Championships. Following that meet is the NCAA South Regional on Nov. 10 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Langdon and the Bruins have their eyes on the prize.
“We’re hopeful for a top two finish at the conference meet and then maybe a top six or seven at the regional meet.” Langdon said. “We’ve talked about what that’s going to take to finish that high in the regional meet, and they’re all in, so we’ll see what happens.”
This article written by Paris Lawson. Photo courtesy of Belmont Athletics.