MONMOUTH — Out of the four years Justin Crosswhite has been with the Western Oregon University Wolves cross-country team, this season sticks out to him the most.
“It’s the cohesive culture that we have,” the senior said. “Everyone seems to get along really well, and they come to practice to work hard, and I think that’s made a difference. I think part of that is that the upper classmen know who the freshmen are and vice versa, and we set that up from day one, just making an effort to get to know each other, which makes a difference in the freshmen being comfortable with us and them being willing to come to practice and doing what they can to be a contributor each day.”
It was also the season where he felt like he improved on the mental aspect of running and racing.
“That was definitely one of the highlights of my season, learning how to, when you go out in a race, you don’t need to kill yourself right away,” he said. “You pace yourself. You use patience. Coach is always telling us to be patient and the last man to kick always wins. So, learning to be patient and waiting for the end instead of trying to show everybody what you got early in the race is nice to work through. So in that aspect, it was very successful, and that will help a lot moving into the track seasons as well.”
Crosswhite’s season ended Nov. 9 at the National Collegiate Athletic Division II West Region meet at the Ash Creek Preserve in Monmouth, where he placed 61st in the men’s 10-kilometers race, clocking in at 31:36.5.
In the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships on Oct. 26 in Billings, Montana, he nabbed second place in the men’s 8-kilometer, coming across the line in 24:54.10.
“It went well,” Crosswhite said. “I knew I wanted to put myself in contention to win the race.”
For the duration of the snowy course, Crosswhite kept up with two Alaska Anchorage runners, the three of them breaking ahead of the other runners early on.
“We came around the corner about 2K in, and we took a peek back and we have a 100-, 150-meter gap on the rest of the field, so we were just running by ourselves and feeding off them,” Crosswhite said. “It was fun.”
Individually, he was happy with his performance, but losing a member of the team’s top scorers due to injury hurt the Wolves’ chance of making it to nationals this year.
“I think as a team, it was a little disappointing, and part of that had to do with losing (sophomore) Hunter Hutton,” Crosswhite said. “He’s a big vital part of our scoring five; he’s still coming back from injury from last year, slowly but surely. We had higher expectations for ourselves, especially at the GNAC and regional level. We knew we had the potential to move forward to nationals, and so missing out on that opportunity is hard.”
Cross-country is over, and after a weekend of taking it easy, Crosswhite is back to the grind, preparing for the indoor track season, which begins in early January.
Out of cross-country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field, indoor is his favorite.
“Nothing beats rolling into an indoor track and people are literally right there on the track. It’s such a small space, so people are just right there. At the Grand Valley meet last year, all the teams were on the infield, and just the energy behind it is fun. Everyone is cheering for each other.”
He’s excited to see what happens this season.
“We definitely want to get the distance medley relay team back there, because it’s what we’re known for,” Crosswhite said. “And those are the memories that you look back on, is running with those four guys, no matter the outcome. And that trumps the individual races.”