Cross-country athletes look from end of season to beginning of indoor track

While most sports have at least a month of offseason for athletes to rest and recover, the Liberty University cross-country athletes only get 10 days before they begin preparing for their other sport: track and field.

The cross-country team wrapped up its season Nov. 15 in the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships, with the men’s team finishing 11th out of 35 teams and the women’s team taking 13th out of 34.

All 14 runners on the men’s team will return for the track season, with the top nine covering a range of events including the 800-meter, 1-mile and 10-kilometer races. They took a 10-day furlough over Thanksgiving break to rejuvenate before preparation for the grueling track season.

Coach Isaac Wendland said he does not want to exhaust his runners, especially after the successful season they enjoyed in cross-country that saw few serious injuries.

“My job as a coach is to not be greedy at this point and push us to the point where we’re going to fade in track,” Wendland said. “I really want to be methodical in every step of the phase and have that big picture in mind of, ‘How are my guys going to progress from one week to the next?’”

Wendland anticipates that many of his runners’ successes will transition into track.

“The consistency in cross-country has set us up well for a lot of guys to have breakout years,” Wendland said. “Any one of our top five guys in cross-country are ready for a breakout year.”

Of those top five, the spotlight perhaps shines brightest on junior Felix Kandie, who had one of his best seasons as a member of the cross-country team. He posted career-bests in the 8-kilometer and 10-kilometer events, with respective times of 24:06.1 and 31:06. Kandie finished highest on the men’s squad in the Southeast Regional Championships 10-kilometer event.

Kandie’s plan for succeeding in the track season includes building up his speed in the mile and 3-kilometer events, which he believes will help when he transitions to distance events.

“I need to adjust from cross-country to the indoor style,” Kandie said. “If I have a good foundation through the indoor season, I will do well in the outdoor season.”

Liberty will benefit from hosting five meets: four indoor and one outdoor. For the third straight season, the Flames will host the ASUN Indoor Track & Field Championships Feb. 28-29.

Kandie and Wendland believe that the team will benefit from their familiarity with the tracks.

“It will be an advantage because we will be used to these facilities,” Kandie said. “It is not like traveling, where you go to an unknown place.”

“It’s one of the best facilities on the nation, so we can always look forward to that,” Wendland said. “In winter season, the more you travel, the more you wear down quickly. It definitely makes the indoor season a little more restful.”

With a favorable schedule and roster stacked with talent, Wendland believes this could be a year to remember the program.

“Our goal is seeing our team running really strong at the conference tournament,” Wendland said. “My goal is to make them really strong in this indoor season, and then capitalizing in the outdoor season.”

Liberty will continue to train over the month-long Christmas break before the season begins in January. The Flames first meet of the new year will be the Hokie Invitational at Virginia Tech Jan. 17 and 18, and the first home meet will be the Liberty Kickoff Jan. 24 and 25. 

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