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VANCOUVER, WA (11/15) The Cornerstone Men's Cross Country team heads into the 2012 NAIA Cross Country National Championship with an experienced crew that includes four seniors, Zach Bourdon, Jared Courtright, Travis Mabe and Cody Risch.
Mabe and Jared have paced the Golden Eagles this season, having joined the team with little in the way of high school experience. "It was a building process and they had a lot to learn," said coach Nate Van Holten. "There were instances their freshman year when I could see that down the road good things would happen." Van Holten saw great progress in the pair as sophomores and even as seniors notices that they continue to learn about how to race and train.
The pair typically finishes within seconds of one another at meets, though their racing styles are different. "Jared is typically more aggressive and Travis like to let the race come to him," Van Holten says. After training together last Track season for the marathon, they learned a lot about each other, which Nate noticed created a level of trust that work well in races. The two men also join the very exclusive group of CU Cross Country men who have qualified for Nationals all four years.
As co-captains, both men credit teammates who mentored them. "They got to learn from Zach Ripley, Kris Shear and Stephan Larson. These are guys who helped shape our program and also knew how to get it done when race time came. Travis and Jared continue the tradition of hard work paying off and leaving things better than you found them," said Van Holten. "Both are what I call hard work captains. They show what to do by doing it themselves. They put in the miles and push the workouts because they have to and the guys behind them have to learn how to do it as well. Travis has really become more vocal this year. When a guy who typically does not talk alot, but has earned everyone's respect, speaks up, you listen."
While finishing the season at nationals was always the goal, injuries kept the Golden Eagles on the edge of the qualifying bubble most of the season. In spite of that, Van Holten says the team arrived in Vancouver healthy and confident, "The conference meet two weeks ago along with a few workouts since has really changed our mental approach to Nationals. Coming in ranked 18th does not show our ability and we have the mindset of proving that. This team has the opportunity to open some eyes on what it means to work as a team, believe in one another, and get it done when it matters." More than that, Van Holten sees a greater purpose in the pursuit of excellence, "In the end we need to bring glory to the kingdom. If we just ran fast then we have missed the point of why God has provided us these abilities and opportunities."