By Tori Wittenbrock
GREEN BAY – The UW-Green Bay cross country team is ready to run in the 2023 regular season with their first official meet of the season on Friday, Sept. 8 for the Phoenix Open, at their on-campus home course, the Phoenix Alumni Cross Country Course at Shorewood.
This season is already looking good for the Phoenix.
“We had a meet last Thursday at the De Pere High School Invitational. A year ago they had about 14 teams, and this year they had 34, so we had 965 runners. That’s a lot,” said Phoenix Head Coach Mike Kline.
“On Saturday, St. Norbert hosted (at UW-Green Bay) and they had about another 250 runners. They had about 11 or 12 teams. Friday we are going to have about six or seven teams. The course here is getting used a lot!”
Last season the Phoenix cross country team finished out a strong season, but lost a couple of strong runners, such as senior Bryce Legois.
Notable returners this season include now senior Riley Siltman on the men’s side and Kelsey Radobicky on the women’s side — both named Horizon League Freshman of the Week in 2021. Radobicky placed ninth last season as a sophomore in the Horizon League Conference Championship as a sophomore, earning the honor of second team all league.
“We had one meet last Saturday and Kelsey won the women’s race. Riley placed second in the men’s race. We had a solid group of men that finished — our men’s team actually won the men’s race out of 11 teams, and our women were fourth,” said Kline.
“Always room for improvement, but it’s a good start for our group. They are running in a pack for our group, which is nice, because you don’t always have that. We are looking better and are excited about the season.”
In addition to the changes in the roster, the Phoenix are faced with some new terrain this season as well.
“Looking at the course, we’ve had a year on it but we have definitely made some improvements,” said Kline. “One of our runners, her family has an excavating and landscaping business. We tore up about three quarters of the course and smoothed out a lot of areas. The hill is now the full width of the course. We re-seeded everything and added four or five areas for drainage. It has really come along nice.”
Kline said that UW-Green Bay is very lucky to have their own course on campus — something that a lot schools don’t have access to.
“We are very fortunate, and the course looks a lot better. We are always looking for more improvements, but that is a huge step. I think the runners will find that it is going to be faster. It’s very spectator friendly. You can stand in one spot and see whomever you are cheering for at least four or five times, but there are also a lot of areas to cross over so you can move around, too.”
The course is very unique and has a lot of aspects that will benefit this season’s runners, as well as those in the years to come as the course continues to improve, according to Kline.
“Coach Nathan Vandervest basically designed the course. We have a 4,000 meter loop, with limited repetition. Very few courses have that. Our 8,000 meter course is just two loops. Our runners have found it to be a challenging course. We hope to have a future where it can be a championship course and we can host some bigger meets if possible.”
However, there are certain requirements that need to be met in order for the course to qualify to be able to host a championship or important meet.
“A big thing is that you have to have enough width throughout the course. We have our course at least 20 to 25 feet wide throughout. We are very lucky to have a cross country course right on campus. It’s not a park or other terrain, it’s a golf course, which makes a perfect cross country course, and we are very fortunate for that.”
2023 regular season
According to the Horizon League preseason poll, the UW-Green Bay cross country team — both the men’s and women’s side — was picked to finish ninth.
“I think everybody for the most part has done their summer homework and seems to be coming in in good condition,” said Kline, “which means they can work harder and progress more, and there is less chance of injury. If you come in not in shape and jump right into two-a-days, you can get banged up and that’s when you get injured.”
The team is looking forward to making improvements on both personal and collective levels as they head into season.
“We are just going to keep everyone healthy, keep working hard, and keep striving towards that later in the season Horizon League Championship and the NCAA Regional Championships, which is our most important meet.”