When Marquette cross country finished its first meet of the season, the team didn’t go right back to Milwaukee like it might have done in previous years.
Interim head coach Sean Birren took the team to Bay Beach instead.
The team was celebrating a win at Phoenix 2019 in Green Bay on Aug. 31.
“Our team camaraderie as a unit of men’s and women’s is by far closer than ever in the four-and-a-half years I have been here,” redshirt senior Brad Eagan said.
The Bay Beach example is just one example of how the team has embraced Birren’s changes as interim head coach.
Eagan said Birren took “more of a scientific approach” to the training schedule, doing heavier runs earlier in the week.
“It’s gotten to a point where we’re pushing harder on the hard days and easier on the easy days,” junior Danny Peterson said.
“It breaks down our body there, but we have so much more rest throughout the week to do base runs or recovery runs,” Eagan said.
The new schedule has resulted in plenty of success on the cross country course. At the Phoenix Open in Green Bay, the men’s team had the top 20 finishers. The women’s team had 14 of the top 15 finishers.
This past weekend, the teams competed in the Loyola Lakefront Invitational in Chicago with the men’s team placing third and the women’s taking fifth. Senior Daniel Pederson finished first place overall out of 125 runners with a time of 24:56.39, which is the second-best of his career. Senior Caitlin McGauley paced the Golden Eagles on the women’s side, finishing 25th overall with a time of 18:26.25.
Peterson finished 24th at the Illinois State Invitational Sept. 13 and beat his personal record by more than 10 seconds. Eagan finished 5th overall and led the Golden Eagles with a time of 24:51.97.
The practices are also earlier in the day so that the whole team can practice together. In the past, the team was divided into two practice groups. Sophomore Kendall Pfrimmer said she is happy with the change.
“I like running with the whole team instead of having (just) a few people to run with,” Pfrimmer said.
McGauley said the locations for practice have also changed.
“We have been doing a lot more interval work on soft ground as opposed to concrete, and we’ve been working on our speed,” McGauley said. “Soft ground mimics our race course and what we’re usually racing on a little bit more compared to hard concrete, (giving) a little bit more strength and stability in our ankles and knees.”
Birren has added some activities through the year for the team, but overall the structure of practices is no different.