Walt Drenth - Michigan State M/W CC Coach - Season Outlook/Interview

Walt Drenth - Michigan State M/W CC Coach - Season Outlook/Interview

Walt Drenth - Michigan State M/W CC Coach - Season Outlook/Interview

Coach Drenth is in his 7th year of leading the MSU men's cross country programs and is in his 5th year or also leading the men. Please read on to find out more about his thoughts on last year and the upcoming season. RM - Last year was a great year for the men and women at MSU, with both teams making the national meet (women finished 26th, men finished 31st). What are the team goals/expectations for this season?

WD - Thanks - I don't think anyone in the program would say last year was a great year for a variety of reasons. It's not to say we did not enjoy both programs making the NCAA championship. No one here is walking around moping either but the history of competitive distance running at Michigan State allows the coaching staff to keep our standards high - looking for more. Our goals are going to remain the same every year. That is to manage what we can control let the rest go and improve. As I mentioned, the history of success is tremendous and it should be the goal of every person on the team to put an additional positive stamp on the program as a reference point for future teams.

RM - The men basically shocked the country last year, finishing 8th at the Big 10 meet and later finishing 2nd at regionals? Looking back on that, what allowed for such a huge improvement from the conference to regional meet? Did your men's team finishing 2nd surprise you? What will it take for your men to have that type of performance again at regionals this year?

WD - We saw the men improving every week last year, without a clear cut front person but decent depth. I thought they had a chance to be pretty good by the end of the fall. Practice was really going well but our races were not reflecting what we saw daily. After pre-Nat's we talked about a few mistakes we were making (primarily not engaging with the right teams and individuals). So at the Big Ten meet we over responded and were out way to fast on a course that rewards some patience. I guess you would say we found our teachable moment and the regional meet was a result of finally following a plan. We were really looking for an intelligent competitive effort and let the results fall where they fall. Obviously we were a surprise, probably a combination of a number of things (us running well, moving to 10,000m from 8,000, and other teams not running as well as planned).
The plan is to run well at the end of every season, I think with the exception of one year (05 I think) we have done our best running at championship time.

We will have to be improved again to qualify auto this fall. The regional and conference are good and very deep, for example last winter in the Big Ten alone there were 20 or more guys under 8:10 for 3,000m. The point is we will have to be better and ready to run to advance - it will be great fun.

RM - Who are some of the top young Michigan State runners that you are expecting big things out of this year?

WD - We saw pretty good progress from a number of people last spring so all of the varsity returners should be improved. Freshmen who look prepared to step into roles immediately include Sara Kroll, Alison White, and Julia Otwell. We may choose to wait on a couple of them but these three look the most ready. On the guys side Alex Wilson, David Madrigal and Sherod Hardt seem to be the freshmen the most prepared to travel. This weekend (Spartan Invite) will tell.

RM - What do you expect out of the Big 10 at the national level on the men's and women's side this year?

WD - I think the Big Ten has the potential to have 4 - 7 teams from both genders at the NCAA final this fall. Based on the improvements we saw through the spring and the quality rosters across the conference the fall will be fun. If your asking me to pick favorites ask me in late September the picture will begin to clear up.

RM - For those highschool juniors/seniors who might not know much about Michigan State, please talk about what MSU has to offer the student athlete.

WD - Michigan State is a tremendous place, offering majors in every conceivable field of study. The atmosphere on campus is everything a person would hope from a world class place and Big Ten institution. Student athletes will find support of every kind regardless of their level when they arrive. We have numerous places to run with trails and dirt roads a short distance from campus. We offer each athlete an opportunity to pursue excellence. I'm not sure you can ask for more than that chance. Competing in the Big Ten is really a chance of a life time. First the level of competiveness is as high as any conference in the country. Second being in the Big Ten offers a national perspective so when NCAA competition arrives student athletes need only look around to see a large portion of the field people they competed against at the Big Ten meet. Finally Big Ten resources allow us to turn over every rock to help athletes improve from competitive scheduling to great academic and sports medicine support.