When the weather turns ugly in Northern Ohio at this time of year, many people opt to stay huddled indoors rattle than battle the cold, dreary elements outside just to pay a visit to the grocery store.
The Lake Erie cross country teams go outside in the bad weather
"They're blue-collar kids and that's the best-part about it," Lake Erie head coach Bryan Harmon said. "We don't do training runs on an indoor track when it gets cold or rains. They like to get after it in the rain and the mud. They don't whine and complain about it. They're all ‘mudders'. They all like the grittiness of the sport."
For the first time in its brief five-year history, the Lake Erie men's and women's cross country teams will compete in the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional meet on Saturday (Nov. 7) at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, where the elements may not be the sunniest.
The Storm head into the race in top form as junior Kyle Griffith (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey/Capital) and freshman Cody Lancaster (Eastlake, Ohio/Eastlake North) are both coming off a race at the Wilmington Fall Classic on Oct. 16 in which they each broke the Griffith's month-old Lake Erie College record.
Griffith established the new mark with a time of 26:51, while Lancaster bested Griffith's former record with a time of 27:02.
The men's team finished 13th of 25 teams at the meet, while the women finished 16th out of 25 teams.
Now, Harmon takes his teams to Wisconsin for their first-ever Division II regional meet.
"We have arguably the toughest region in the country," Harmon said. "Being our first time, we're going to make sure we get a positive experience out of it."
It will be the first time the squads have raced since the Oct. 16 Wilmington meet, but they have tried to simulate races as much as possible in order to create a race-like atmosphere.
"We were pleased with our workouts," Harmon said. "You always want to keep positive momentum going. We are emphasizing this last meet in preparation for next year. We tried to simulate that throughout this season and what races we're going to put emphasis on."
The Storm has tried to focus on this meet and last month's All-Ohio Championships as the teams gear up for their alignment in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference next season.
Overall, Harmon is trying to build this program from the bottom up in order to be ready for next season's jump.
"Going into next cross country season, we're there, we have a nice structure," said Harmon. "There's things that we need to fix and fine tune, but that's fine with as young as we are. That's not a problem, that's expected."
On the women's side, sophomore Allison Wright (Columbus, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson), sophomore Carrie Crews (Chardon, Ohio/Chardon) and freshman Leah Jones (Maple Heights, Ohio/Maple Heights) have led the way.
"They train well as a pack and challenge each other in the workouts," said Harmon. "Leah and Allison think they have all the speed in the world and they like to challenge each other at the end of those training runs."
On the men's side, Harmon has also been impressed with the way Lancaster has come on during his freshman year.
"It's surprising that he's been able to do the things he's done from a training standpoint," said Harmon. "It's been a flawless transition adapting to mileage from high school to college.
"When he has a bad workout or bad race, he says ‘Ok, this isn't happening again.' He hasn't had two consecutive bad workouts or bad races."
Even though he's working with young teams that will sometimes take their lumps on the course, Harmon sees a bright future ahead for his teams as they move into the GLIAC next season.
"Some of the kids are already looking forward to next cross country season. Even though it's an individual sport, they look at it from a team aspect and they don't let each other slip."
Not even in the cold rain...or snow.