For the first time since the 2009 season, the nationally-ranked Bishop Hendricken cross country team qualified to compete in the Nike National meet in Portland, Oregon.
The Hawks won the state championship earlier this season, and took home a second-place finish at the New England meet. They now look to continue to build on this season’s success, and to cement their legacy as arguably the best group to ever come out of Rhode Island.
“With everything that comes along with this meet. The sendoff, flying cross country to Nike headquarters, all of that, I’d like to think that our guys are still very focused to achieve their best … still trying to make sure that will run their best against the top teams in the country. We’re hoping to finish in the top-10. We feel we can run with any (of the top teams), so finishing in the top 10 or higher would be exceptional for our guys,” said Hendricken coach Dan Brennan.
The Hawks have saved some of their best performances for last, including at the state meet and regional races. Brennan hopes that the guys will adapt to the new scenery, and bring their best once again as they go toe to toe with some of the top teams in the country.
“Momentum is very important. Getting out to Portland was a team goal and now that’s off of their shoulders, now they can focus on racing and running well. All of guys have big race experience, a lot have traveled throughout the country, having big race experience is important and they’ve competed at pretty much every big meet they could except for this one,” said Brennan. “Getting out there a day early and getting acclimated will be important, they know that even with all of the fun stuff surrounding this trip that they still want to compete.”
Throughout the local cross country season, the Hawks are viewed as one of the top teams in New England. However, the Nike National meet will be anyone’s race, which Brennan believes may help the Hawks.
“In some ways the pressure is off of our guys. No one really knows a team from Rhode Island nationally, even though our program is recognized very well. Our guys don’t have the pressure to win or come in second, they can come in relaxed and run aggressive and not have that pressure,” said Brennan.
Overall, experience and selflessness are what have led the Hawks to Oregon, and will be the key to their success, according to Brennan.
“These guys believe in team, they believe in everything that the team sport has to offer,” said Brennan. “What people don’t realize about cross country is that it is a team sport, when people think of running, they think it’s an individual event, but it is a team event. These seniors, since they were freshmen they worked their way up and set their goals very high. They’ve won state championships, finished high at New Englands, and making it out to Nike Nationals was a huge goal.”