Every running enthusiast has his or her favorite season. Some enjoy running in the mild warmth of spring, some prefer running on hot summer days and some are even crazy enough to enjoy running through the winter snow. At Wheaton, the men’s cross country team looks forward to running through the falling leaves and cool air of St. James during their fall season.
Last year, the Thunder finished second in the College Conference of Illinois-Wisconsin (CCIW) and 15th at the Division III Midwest Regional Meet. The team graduated only three seniors in the offseason, but two of them were among their top three runners. Although replacing senior leadership is always difficult, Head Coach David Walford thinks several runners can step up into a leadership role. “That’s the beauty of the dynamic of this team,” he said. “There isn’t one guy head and shoulders above everyone else.” He specifically mentioned sophomore Seth Massot, junior Miles Trujillo and sophomore Simon Peterson as runners he sees as leaders of the team.
Despite the changes in the roster, the team’s traditions and unity-building activities remain the same. The cross country team holds chapel talks prior to every meet. Before the race starts, the team will hold a sort of impromptu chapel consisting of prayer, praise and a “senior share,” a time when seniors speak about lessons they have learned from their time at Wheaton.
Walford mentioned that he, too, has learned lessons from his two years coaching the team. In particular, Walford said God has taught him where to find his true identity. “We shouldn’t define our worth in the eyes of the world, but maintain eternal focus,” he said. He elaborated further, “When I have failures, that doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person or a terrible coach.”
The Thunder open their season on Friday, Sept. 8 at Aurora University in the Spartan XC Classic.