When most college sports teams report to campus in the fall, coaches and student athletes prepare for the coming season with numerous practices, film study and instruction. But for Siena's cross country program, preseason has an entirely different feel to it.
"Cross country isn't like most other NCAA sports in a number of ways," explains head coach John Kenworthy, who enters his second season. "Our everyday training is affected by the environment that we are in. Siena and the greater Albany area have so many great resources for our everyday use during the school year, but a new and unique stimulus for our training is a welcomed challenge."
Shortly after the Saints arrive back to campus, the team makes the now annual trek an hour's drive to the north to Camp Echo Lake, nestled in the heart of Adirondack Park in Warrensburg. For five days the 33 student athletes and coaches take advantage of the properties great trails, hills, mountains, dirt roads and open fields which fulfill all of the team's training needs.
"Echo Lake is a great way to start the season, because it brings everyone together and set the mood," says senior captain Nick Grudev. "It's not a vacation. It's a business trip. It sets things off on the right tone. It gets us not only physically, but mentally prepared for the upcoming season."
This summer the Saints spent time driving to the NYS Pack Demonstration Forest for wooded, dirt road runs. One of the longer runs took the squad to the village of North Creek, some 12-15 miles away, and included over six miles in one direction of cinders and dirt. The Saints also ran a number of miles at their temporary campus at Echo Lake, utilizing the ski trails, dirt roads, and numerous grass fields.
But while the trip is focused primarily on training and preparation for the upcoming season, the team does take time to enjoy its surroundings.
"Some of these athletes have never been to the Adirondacks or even outside of the suburbs," notes Kenworthy. "And between the runs, hiking mountains (we hiked Hackensack Mountain in Warrensburg), swimming in the Hudson River (which runs adjacent to Echo Lake), or just spending time laying around with their teammates, we get to start the year off with some amazing new experiences that are based in the sport we love, and achieved because of our hard work through the summer and in our training. Essentially we get to spend five days living the life of a professional runner with nothing more to do than train, sleep, eat, and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings."
The experience is especially helpful to the squad's incoming freshmen, but does continue to benefit all members of the team each year. Five days of living in the same cabin can really bring a team together.
"After four years of spending preseason at Camp Echo Lake with my team, I have seen us grow stronger both in running and in our bond as a team," comments senior Caroline Bertholf. "The lake is surrounded by trails and paths which are ideal for training. The entire experience starts our season on an energetic note that has a positive impact on the rest of our season."
As the Saints prepare to reach their goals this fall, their training and support for each other requires an amazing team.
"Nobody can drag a teammate across the line in a race, but the support (mentally and physically) of a team through the ups and downs of the daily grind of training is what makes a great program," adds Kenworthy. "Our five days at Camp Echo brings our men and women together in a way that makes our daily training together back at Siena better in almost every way."
Siena hopes their hard work during the summer and the bonds they have formed with their teammates during their stay in the Adirondacks translates to success on the course this fall. The Saints open their season Saturday, Sept. 6 when they race Hamilton and Nazareth at Hamilton's Short Course Invitational.
"This season we are setting the bar high," exclaims Grudev, who is the only senior on the men's squad. "We're confident in ourselves and know that if we can run as a pack, we definitely can achieve our goals. It's just a matter of doing it. We're tired of talking. We're ready to succeed."