Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2016 by thepurpleroo

It begins in the morning as the coaches sit and determine the training load for each runner for the TUE interval workout. Volume and Intensity.  Intensity and volume. The keys to success in the workout. Today, it is repeat miles, one of the few times we will touch the track during the season, a test of lactate tolerance. For me, it was caffeine tolerance I was working on,  having my 5th cup in the past two hours. The weather looks good.  A note is sent to the runners to make sure they eat a good lunch, and have a mid afternoon snack if needed….and to hydrate.  I, on the other hand, am dehydrating, continuing to pound the coffee.  It’s 10:00am and I’ll be visiting the men’s room for the fourth time.  I think I need to drink more water.

The workout does not come soon enough for the coaches. After a short get-together in the locker room,  the guys go out at 4:30 for their warmup run as Nate and I head to the track,  clipboards in hand with  colorful excel charts showing groups and times on them.  As always,  one runner will forget their watch for the intervals.  Never fails.  Who will it be today? Geez:  what do you need for equipment for this sport?  Shoes and watch.  Pretty simple.

Upon arrival at the track after the warmup run, the groups  do the dynamic routine prior to the intervals.  The excitement is palpable and the guys begin talking it up.

Anthony McLean begins it  “5:00 miles? Crap!  Challenge me coach!”  John Lennon not to be outdone follows with “I’m athlete of the week, boys. Don’t you forget it!”

The runners finish with strides as I overhear Josh Jensen, “This isn’t my only piercing, you know.”  Aidan Healey nodded, also deep in reflection, “My spirit animal is the vulture.”

I had a good feeling for this one.  Windy it was,  but this group was ready for a big workout. Stew Bass agreed,  “Really?  These times are cool down pace.  I’m no wuss!”  I looked over to  one of the groups deep in meditation after looking at the goal times.  John Osler commented, “The only person I’m chasing is Booth’s ghost.” Sam Sokolsky nodded,  “This is good training for me to become a Seahawks water boy.”  Sean O’Reilly look up with a puzzled look as Ring of Fire played for a second time on the interval list,  “I wish Coach would loop the pokemon theme for these intervals.”

The intervals began,  and it was a beautiful display of sartorial spender.  Coach Nate and I could barely record the times as we were overwhelmed with the moment. Mo Facke stepped up to the line after running his first mile in 3:57.  He looked at me, “Coach, why are all these boys in shoes?” Off he went in his group of one. I knew he would be the big surprise at conference in three weeks. HIs second mile was 7:57. Still has a problem with pace, and tolerating shoes.


The group of Crail, McCarthy, Hansen, Schulte and Krewson were finally about to begin. Nate Crail was busy putting the CC flags into his hair for his signature do, “You guys go ahead without me,  I’m having a bad hair day.”  Oleg Yardas, waiting to finish his first recovery period, agreed,  “It’s not how hard you run,  it’s how good you look doing it.”  Pieter Hansen, feeling unusually boisterous, claimed, “Not enough of a challenge, Coach.  I’ll be doing the rest of the miles in lane 8.”  Fellow sophomore GT looked on with admiration. Pieter asked him, “GT, what’s with the big shakespeare book?”  GT replied,  “You see this big Shakespeare book!  I don’t carry it around for reading.  I carry it for the extra load.  Training affect, you know.”  Pieter nodded with admiration,  wondering what it would feel like having a big book stuffed down your shorts.  Gray Krewson zipped up his parka, ready to begin,  “Coach, when are you gonna buy us training parkas.”  These guys!  Always wanting new jerseys,  new parkas. Spoiled!  Matt McCarthy stood by himself repeating his mantra before the work began “Yeah, We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.”  I got it. Young Jackson had had enough as he ran off in the lead.  “These guys are sick, Coach.” The others followed suit.

I looked over at Chris Brunet,  hands on knees and breathing heavily after his first mile,  I’m good coach,  except I think I just coughed up a lung.”   Mully was walking away from the finish line as I yelled, “where you going?”  “Cross training coach,  this workout is for weenies.”


John Gallagher ran up after coming from a late lab,  ‘Hello everybody!  How is your day going”!  He didn’t know what he was in for. Get ready to suffer, Johnny! Phillip Kane, who had been waiting patiently for John to arrive, was now itching to run. “Let’s go, John!  This workout won’t kill me.  I’m gonna kill it first!”

Alec Monovich jogged away from the track to cross train. “Where’s Murphy?”  Looking to my right was Matt Murphy, also ready to cross train. He was asking the others,   “Where’s Mono?”

Kevin Anderson was the last to leave for the bike, letting the guys know a truth,  “You just wait for track season. I’m gonna make you guys puke!”  Coach Nate nodded in agreement,  “Us middle distance boys don’t get no respect in this sport.”  Matt Phipps,  the racer who always is there on Saturday,  was in the midst of another tough workout, “Coach, taking iron before the workout isn’t working.”


So it went for another interval workout at the track.  Music blaring from Will’s world-class list, not a cloud in the sky, and a gentle breeze.   And some of the things these guys say!  What a show!  Life doesn’t get any better than this.

Well, except for race days!


O.K.,  maybe they didn’t say those things,  but it would be funny if they did!  They did work really hard, and ran really fast!



Posted in Uncategorized on October 5, 2016 by thepurpleroo

In the fall of the successful cross country season of 2007,  we  won the conference title with a solid team performance with the top five finishing in 7-8-9-10-11 and  having a range of  just 25 seconds. It was a harbinger of things to come as that team further developed with  another year of training. Confidence was high as the 2008 season began. Knowing we had a special group,  I was approached by the captains with a challenge.

Nick Sparr asked me, “When are you going to get a Purple Kangaroo tattoo like us?”

My answer was short and direct.  “Never.  It’s not me,  besides I’m a bit old for that kind of stuff.”

Now the other guys chimed in,  “Maybe we could make a deal, Will.”

Will: “Yeah,  what kind of deal?”

Team: “Well,  if we win conference and qualify for nationals,  you will get a tattoo.”

Will:  “But guys”,  You guys are really good this year.  I expect those things to happen.”

Team: “How about if we perfect score the conference meet and quality for nationals?”

I thought about it for a minute, thinking of the motivational possibilities. Since we had never seen a perfect score at the conference meet, I felt confident that, while this might help to motivate them,  it was highly unlikely a perfect score would occur.

“O.K., I’ll take that bet” I said.

The guys cheered, maybe knowing something that I did not. Weeks later, the 2008 conference meet was at Galesburg, IL on a natural grass course east of town.  Things did not seem in favor of a good meet for us. Evelyn’s choice of the hotel was shakey at best.  With concerns of bedbugs and other critters,  the team slept,  well… kind of.  The hotel rooms faced a large all-night gas station with bright, bright lights just outside the rooms.  Our very hotel burned down shortly after our stay…a good thing for future runners, and the Galesburg community.  Breakfast was a challenge, as well.  Donuts and juice were served in the lobby.  Donuts. The lobby.  There was nowhere to eat.  We sat outside and ate breakfast at picnic tables,  fortunate that Evelyn brought boxes of oatmeal on the bus. It was not the way to perfect score a conference meet. I felt comfortable that we would run well,  but also confident that my body would not become a canvas for a tattoo artist.


Calish, Sparr, Heppner, DeLong, Montgomery, and Henry Reich lead the front pack at Mile Marker #1

I should have seen it coming at mile one.  The guys looked good.  Really good.

I was  250m from the finish waiting for the runners to come into view.  It was impressive. One, two, three, four Roos went by.  Then a runner from St. Norbert went by, with Nick Sparr, our fifth, close in pursuit.  I knew the possibility.  As I ran toward the finish, I could see the first four cross,  then double pack to cheer on Sparr.

It worked.  Perfect score, and a tattoo for coach.

                                The Top 10 at the MWC Championships 2008
 1 Reich, Henry SR Grinnell College 25:51.39    1
 2 Calisch, Sam JR Grinnell College 25:58.95    2
 3 DeLong, Noah SO Grinnell College 26:05.33    3
 4 Montgomery,   David JR Grinnell College 26:12.56    4
 5 Sparr, Nick SR Grinnell College 26:22.20    5
 6 DeVillers, Alex SO St. Norbert College 26:24.63    6
 7 Smith, Jason SO Ripon College 26:29.27    7
 8 Johannes, Anthony SR Beloit College 26:34.08    8
 9 Laska, Mackenzie JR St. Norbert College 26:39.13    9
10 Reich, Alex SO Grinnell College 26:40.96   10

At the awards banquet a few weeks later,  I had not heard anything about the tattoo.  Hoping it would blow over,  we gave out the awards,  I spoke about a wonderful season (they did qualify for nationals). It was customary for the captains to finish the night and give a small token or gift to the coaches.  Nick Sparr handed me a card,  I opened it and read it to myself as the room began to cheer and clap. It was a pre-paid coupon for one tattoo at the tattoo parlor downtown…for that night! I was accompanied by the captains to the tattoo parlor where I had to hold up my end of the bargain.

I wear the Purple Roo tattoo on my right thigh with pride.  Many others do, as well.  I am the only one who is not a runner in the program who sports one.  It means a lot to me because of the people on that team and on many other teams before and since.


The Perfect Five team of 2008. Note that four in this picture would win individual titles in the next few years: Henry Reich in this meet, and Drake Ballew, Alex Reich, and Dan Krauss in the future.


What a team and what a year it was.  A perfect score… and a tattoo for Coach.

Fast forward a few weeks.  I got a call from one of the runners while in the office.  “Coach, you need to come over to the JRC (the dining hall)! Now!  A couple of the guys are in a fight and you need to get over here now!  You need to get over here and put a stop to this!!”

I ran out and to the JRC across the street.  When I went in,  the top five from conference were all there. “Sorry, coach.  there’s really nothing wrong.  It was a ruse to get you here quickly.”  There was no fighting, just laughter and good feelings.

Captain Henry Reich spoke, “We’ve got something for you, Will.  We wanted you to have it from the five of us.  He handed me a package in gift wrap, which I opened. In a beautiful frame was a signed picture of the top 5 at the conference awards ceremony. Below the picture were their individual medals.

“Coach, we want you to put this on your wall in the office to remember this team by, and to show future runners that perfection is possible.  I was moved to tears.  “We don’t do this for the medals, Coach. We do it for each other., and you are part of that.

The gift remains on my office wall to this day, as a reminder of a special day in the fall of 2008, where a special team did something remarkable. A great memory, indeed.




Running for Balance

Posted in Uncategorized on September 26, 2016 by thepurpleroo

Running means a lot of things to a lot of people.  At Grinnell, the academic workload is demanding…very demanding.  Rated as one of the most rigorous college educations in the country,  running can provide a real sense of balance.  GT (Connor Gregorich-Trevor) says it best:

Its spring, and the weather has finally gotten warm enough that you don’t have to check the forecast before you walk outside. I step into the locker room and it’s empty, everyone has either already practiced already or will be soon. I look around the locker room, at the nametags of all my friends, the mess of shoes, the cramped whiteboard full of inside jokes. I know that I could wait for twenty minutes and someone else would walk in, but I decide to go alone for once.
Its been a bad week. I feel like in a lot of ways things have slipped out of my control; things in my life are falling apart. Even running, the thing that always makes me feel better, hasn’t been helping. I’m sad and frustrated and feel like I have no way to deal with it. More than anything I just want to get away for a little while, to escape. So the first few miles are just me and the swirl of angry thoughts inside my head. I decide to run the High Speed Six route, and I hit the turn off point and go right for maybe a quarter mile.
Then I stop.
I push away all my thoughts for a minute, and for the first time that day I take a good look around myself. The sky is a brilliant blue, with only the smallest ribbons of cloud streaking across it. The gravel crunches loudly under my feet as I turn in place, but other than that the only sounds are the wind, the insects, and the occasional distant cars. The sun shines blindingly above, warming me. I feel like I’m the only person for miles, and maybe I am. Gradually, I stop thinking about the week, and start to take it all in. The fact that I am fit and alive, and I am experiencing this incredible beautiful day, and that there will never be a single day that’s exactly like this one.
I stood there on that road for almost half an hour, thinking and taking in the beauty of it all. Its probably romanticizing things, but I still feel that it was one of the most deeply spiritual experiences of my life, and that I found something inside myself that day that I had forgotten about. How grateful I am to have the friends that I do, to have the life that I have, and to have the team, who are like a family away from home. I still think about that run to this day, and it still brings me joy and motivates me every time I do.
I arrive back at the Bear after the run, covered in sweat. I’m tired and ready to shower, but happy. I don’t tell anyone about what happened on the run or why it took me so long. I go to eat dinner with the team, confident that life is good, and it’s going to get better. And it did.



Posted in Uncategorized on September 26, 2016 by thepurpleroo

Sophomore JOSH JENSEN, Iowa City, IA

GOALS FOR THE SEASON: Win conference as a team and do whatever I can to improve and help the team.

PARENTS NAMES: Chris and Sheral SIBLINGS:  Isaac (21), Annika (17), Mara (17)

HOMETOWN AND HS: Iowa City, IA / West High School

MAJOR: Intended: Biology and Environmental Studies Concentration

HOBBIES: Camping, slacklining, rock climbing, being outside, reading


Posted in Uncategorized on September 26, 2016 by thepurpleroo


GOALS FOR THE SEASON: Have races I can be proud of.

PARENTS:  Sandy and Charlie       SIBLINGS: Casey (17)

HOMETOWN / HS: Madison, WI / James Madison Memorial HS

MAJOR: Psychology and Computer Science

HOBBIES: Creative writing, programming, playing music



Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2016 by thepurpleroo

Sophomore GRAY KREWSON, Camden, DE


Dan was an outstanding HS runner who is running CC at Grinnell for the first time.  Very talented!

GOALS FOR THE SEASON: I would like to achieve as much as I am able this season.

MOM: Jan

HOMETOWN/HS: Camden, DE / Caesar Rodney HS

MAJOR: French

HOBBIES: running (of course), basketball, learning new languages, yard work, cooking


Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2016 by thepurpleroo

Sophomore NATE CRAIL, Glen Ellyn, IL

After being injured for most of last CC season, and after a strong track season,  Nate returns very fit and ready. He will be a player for the ROOS, and he always has the best “do”.

GOALS FOR THE SEASON: Contribute to the team on and off the course. Run faster and harder.

PARENTS: Rhondalyne and Jonathan  SIBLINGS: Rebekah (17)

HOMETOWN AND HS: Glen Ellyn, IL / Glenbard West HS

MAJOR: Anthropology with an environmental studies concentration

HOBBIES: Geography, architecture, reading, ham mocking, enjoying nature, steaming